Changing the conversation

Monday, October 24, 2016

"I know there are cookies in there"
A friend pointed out in my last blog post that it doesn’t sound like I’m having fun riding anymore.  And it’s very sad and also true.  The good rides that I have with Ryon are getting fewer and further between.  It’s been easy to blame it all on him - his anxiety, his hormones, whatever is going on in that big noggin of his.  It’s easy to forget that my trainer and I have manufactured the expectation that we’ve placed on him - to perform at a certain level consistently because other horses do.  If Ryon has shown me anything, it’s that he’s not like other horses and he’s got his own way of doing things.

Through habit and the rhythm of routine and consistency, I have forgotten the team aspect of riding and that he’s half of the pair necessary for success, however we define it.  Getting angry and frustrated with him is not and has not been the solution to our problem.  This fall, I’m refocusing on our relationship and working on our partnership from a few different angles, the first of which is groundwork.  Ryon is eager to please, when it strikes his fancy.  He’s smart enough to know what to do and smart enough not to do it when he doesn’t want to.  Instead of challenging him only in the saddle, I’m going to try giving him some puzzles to work through on the ground.  Learning to “sit” and “lay down” may be a stretch but “giving kisses” and “smiling on cue” are surely within his grasp.

It sounds silly but I’m also going to spend more time doting on him on the ground as well.  Typically I’ll do a quick groom, tack up, and hop on.  We do plenty of warm up in the arena but not in the barn on the ground.  I don’t spend much time focused on how he feels, just that he’s uninjured and not physically uncomfortable.  I’ve forgotten how much he loves being brushed and having his hair cut and braided.  He’s one horse who will stand completely still as I clean his face and ears and cut his mane.

Because Ryon’s behavioral issues under saddle are not restricted only to me, my trainer and I put him in some new equipment this week that prevents him from pulling so hard on the backside of fences.  We’ll have to just swap bits every few months, so he doesn’t have time to get too comfortable (read: take advantage) of each one.  When Ryon gets bored, he acts out and doesn’t pay attention and changing the conversation between us will hopefully be enough of a distraction for him and keep him on his toes.  This horse is teaching me (very passively) to never let things get stale and to look at problems from different angles.  I’ll be sure to report back and let you all know how it progresses.

Same horse, different ride

Monday, October 17, 2016

Society6 (not Ryon)
We’re on the cusp of fall, which means Ryon is a different horse… again.  Big boy turned 11 last week and still behaves like a three year old.  He fights me on every single jump course until we crank up the jumps closer to three feet.  His anxiety level is at an all time high, and he becomes a bottle rocket out in the new arena.  After our jump lessons, my neck, shoulders, and back are all tweaked to pieces.  I constantly get compliments on my biceps; the secret is not to lift weights but to get a horse who tries to rip the reins out of your hands.  On the ground, Ryon has gone from being my pristine horse to a pig who creates his own mud puddles with his water trough.  He buries his head in the water and splashes out as much as he possibly can into the dirt - is he fighting the heat?  The flies?  Who knows.  To calm him down and alleviate the anxiety, we’re putting him on birth control shots and adding a bit of estrogen to his system.  Fingers crossed that this actually works or else this winter is going to be an absolute nightmare.

His coat has gotten so soft.  I’ve been spraying it with Microtek which is supposed to be an anti-microbial that will also medicate dry skin and apparently it’s working.  We’re getting cooler nights but not cold enough to blanket the horses again, especially when we creep up into the 90s during the day.  I had his winter blanket professionally laundered this past spring so it’s now bird poop-less.  You’re welcome Ryon.

We are getting into better trail riding weather.  I took him out one weekend and we ran into an Oktoberfest celebration, complete with live band and hordes of stroller moms.  He does great on the trails, except when we’re galloping with others.  Then he pretends that he’s a Formula One race car and finishing FIRST is of the utmost importance.  I’d love to put this boy on a track to see what he can really do.  This past weekend we were both eaten alive by mosquitoes (in October, it’s a travesty), so we may need to wait a few more weeks until those stop pestering us.

I’m really glad that he’s healthy, and we’re coming up on a year since his joint procedure.  The bone chips in his ankles are extremely visible but don’t seem to be causing him any discomfort.  Hopefully the cold weather doesn’t bring on any additional stiffness, but as with Ryon every year, nothing is ever the same as the year before.

Senegal, quickly

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When you deplane in Senegal, the first thing you’re hit with is the wall of humidity, which was so soothing after spending over six hours on a plane breathing recirculated dry air.  The next is the smell, which is hot and briny, from the sea.  We arrived in the middle of monsoon season, and there were mosquitoes lazily floating in circles everywhere.  Sleep with your mosquito nets down, and make sure to take your Malarone, regardless of the digestive distress it causes.  The national language is French, of which mine is utterly deplorable, so we relied heavily on the French expats and locals to guide us through the city as well as in a few of the meetings.  I’ve got to start picking up more, particularly if we’re going to be going back to the west coast of Africa more frequently.

We ate wonderfully while we were in country.  The takeout fast food (kebabs) that they grabbed for us for lunch in the office were smothered in a mystery sauce had me gracefully stuffing my face.  Also, I tried baobab juice, which is delicious and has the added benefit of supposedly being an aphrodisiac.  When we did manage to make it out for meals, we tried our very best for a coastal view.  Serenity is watching the sunset from a little restaurant on the surf that serves anything from burgers to pizza to sushi holding a cold beer.  The only sound you hear are the waves crashing and hawkers milling up and down the beach selling locally made trinkets.  Dakar is beautifully vibrant at night.  It seems as though people don’t come out in the evenings until around 8 pm and even at 11 pm, bodegas are still open and people are out and about on the streets.

I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in the city; it was a quick in-and-out trip sandwiched between way too much time spent in airplanes and airport lounges.  The combination of time difference, language changes, and airplane food had me fuzzy headed for over a week.  As with most places I go for work, we mostly see the inside of hotels and conference rooms and in Senegal, there are loads more sights to see and more things to eat.  Au revoir et à bientôt!

What we've been smoking

Thursday, September 29, 2016

This post is slightly delayed by a few weeks.  A large majority of this summer has been comprised of making Really Good Food (“RGF”), and I ashamedly haven’t blogged about any of it.  I’ll attempt to divide up my blog posts about RGF into categories (cooking method, season).  Don’t forget to also tell me about your RGF.  I really want to know.

Smoked turkey

So begins the Thanksgiving-testing phase of the year.  Typically around August / September, I’ll begin my months-long quest to perfect pie baking.  Not so this year.  Since B has an electric smoker, we’ve been experimenting with different things that we can make in it, beyond the regular things that you'd grill.  A few weekends ago, we smoked a 24 lb turkey using this recipe.  This is an improvement on the spatchcocked turkey as this one also gets butterflied but then smokes for 4.5 hours.  Not only does it have a delightful, bacon-y flavour afterward but you completely free up your oven for all the other Thanksgiving delights (pies guys, pies).  B was convinced that the turkey leftovers would last us for weeks.  Realistically, they lasted 9 days.  With the leftovers, I made turkey tortilla soup, turkey enchiladas, turkey fried rice, and a few other random turkey concoctions.  Every time I make turkey, including Thanksgiving, I ask myself why I don’t do it more often.  Maybe we will.

Homemade, smoked pizza

We may have a slight love affair with B’s smoker.  Shortly after trying the turkey, we smoked a pizza (with homemade dough, I might add).  There are plenty of electric smoker pizza recipes out there; an electric smoker basically acts like an oven.  The thing to remember is going light on the smoke (we didn’t put any wood chips in the smoker) and checking on it regularly.  To truly crisp up the pizza crust, we ended up popping it in the oven at the very end.  And I'd definitely add MORE CHEESE because when is that ever a bad idea.  Was it delicious and would we do it again?  Absolutely on both counts.

Smoked potato salad

We were invited over for a friend’s birthday dinner and since his wife had sneakily bought him an electric smoker for his birthday, we decided to bring a smoked side to slyly hint at what his gift would be.  Although I think the potatoes could have used a smidge longer in the smoker, the flavour was, once again, awesome and the bacon was the ingredient that put everything over the border firmly into Flavour Town.  Meat notwithstanding, vegetables are so easy to do in the electric smoker.  There are plenty of things you can smoke, for my vegetarian friends out there.

Hunting for banana slugs in the Pacific Northwest

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The past weekend, I made my annual trek out to the Pacific Northwest to visit my sister and her boyfriend.  It was my first time to Portland in the fall, and B and I caught it at just the right time.  All the leaves were changing colours and everywhere we went, we were greeted with beautiful patterns of red, orange, and yellow.  The weather was  drizzly and cool but brightened up brilliantly on the weekend, warm enough where we could leave the screen door open all day.

We were able to squeeze in a day trip to the coast during the weekend on one of the gorgeously sunny bluebird days.  The slumped over bow of an old shipwreck lies on a beach at Fort Stevens near Astoria, so we thought we’d visit the rusted out hull, maybe find some pirate's treasure.  The shell of the boat itself was surrounded by tourists when we got there (tetanus shots people!) so we took a walk along the beach, which was one of the nicest ones in the continental US that I’ve been to.  The sand is very fine, very clean, and very brown.  There were hoof prints up and down the sand, and you can also drive your vehicle on the beach.  If I had brought Ryon, we would have definitely gone for a gallop by the surf, but B and I chose to wander by the water for a few miles, unnerving all the sea gulls.

Like people do in Portland, we walked everywhere in the city - to pick up breakfast pastries, for brunch, dinner, and late night eats.  The new neighborhood my sister lives in is more quiet and serene than the hustle and bustle of the Northwest District.  One morning, we huffed and puffed our way up a five mile hike in Forest Park, which is a beautiful green space right next door.  B had heard about gigantic banana slugs that ooze their way around the area, and within the first five minutes, he found one on the side of a log.  By the end of the trail, we had to watch our every step, lest we squish them on the path.

Portland is definitely known for All the Good Eats, and of course we gorged ourselves silly.  However, my utmost favourite part of the weekend was cooking dinner at Iris’s new apartment, playing video games on their old N64, and binge-watching Stranger Things.  Anywhere I go, I find that hanging out with my favourite people, doing silly things, and eating good food is the tops!

Summer in London, apparently

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Aaaand I’m back in London again, where summer has arrived.  The day I landed was the hottest day in September in one hundred years - or some absurd number like that.  It was as if I boarded the plane in Texas and then it just sat on the tarmac for 9 hours.  All joking aside, it’s beautiful here.  Everyone is milling around the outside of pubs drinking (at way too early an hour in the afternoon) and sprawled out on any piece of green they can find.  Every single morning is filled with blue skies, and I’m simply ecstatic that it isn’t cold or rainy.  At some point this week, I’ll have to find the opportunity to grab a pint outside and join the Londoners.

I had a meeting with a French gentleman yesterday who had sweat through his entire dress shirt.  He had bravely kept his suit jacket on for 20 minutes into the meeting (inside in an air conditioned room, I might add) but couldn’t take it any more, after running through several napkins wiping the sweat from his brow.  I thought he was going to faint.  When he finally removed his jacket, at least 40% of his blue shirt was sweat-stained.  I politely tried not to notice and endeavored to keep a straight face.  He visibly perked up after shedding layers and at the end of the meeting, only the pit stains remained.

Despite the record-setting heat, it’s really the perfect time to be in London right now, even better than the summertime.  Everyone is back in school so there are less tourists milling about, and it’s still light out relatively late.  Eventually I’m going to turn one of these trips into a long weekend vacation or extended European jaunt.  Another one of those "someday" plans...

Dino hunt

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dinosaur Valley State Park
This weekend, we went hunting for dinosaurs.  We waded through a creek bed to find the footprints and find them we did, after a few hours sweating buckets under the blazing sun.  I feel like the entire month of August was like that; hunting for dinosaurs - looking for something huge and nonexistent today - but instead coming up short.

Not much happened during the month of August.  It was hot and still and quiet.  I’m still attempting to put words to that feeling of what is missing from the day-to-day.  Not a person or a thing, it’s more something(s) momentous and exciting (maybe even a little scary) instead of the quiet calmness.  It has been difficult for me to handle the quiet calmness, of things falling more or less in order and as planned.  My brain leaps in circles and loops, trying to spin itself into different things to do.  My hands will pick up things at random, and cohesive ideas seem to come in spurts.  I’ve been trying not to fight myself about it and sometimes winning and other times losing.  Embarrassingly enough, it brings me to tears of frustration more often than I’d like to admit.  I’m more and more convinced that these are the struggles of adulthood, starting to feel comfortable in your own skin but also trying to grow into a better one as well.  I suppose it fits the old adage - if it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing.  Is that what aging is?

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