Sunday, November 23, 2014

B-day Photo Shoot and Giving Thanks

I celebrated my 35th birthday recently.  My husband of ten years really knows what I like.  He bought me a new pair of Field and Stream women's insulated boots, the Blue Ray of Catching Fire, a buckskin dressage horse toy, which deserves its own post, and he reserved some time on Sunday for a photo shoot of me and Harley.  I love it when he can take pictures of me riding my horse, but these days it requires a bit more planning.  My parents joined us at the barn to watch Sweet Pea while we took some pictures on the nearby trail and in the field where I have been riding.

I am so glad that we chose to take these pictures outside of the ring.  I realize now that I have almost no pictures of Harley and I anywhere except in an arena. Why didn't I think of this sooner? I love the natural backdrop and I forgot that the autumn leaves would also be on display.  What a nice surprise.

Since Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, I would like to wish you and your family a wonderful holiday.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I have so much to be thankful for this year, but I will stick to the horse-related items since this IS a horse blog:

I am thankful that Harley is feeling well and we have been enjoying some great weekend rides.
I am thankful that my financial situation and supportive husband allows me to continue to be a horse owner.
I am thankful that Harley is as happy on the trails and in the field as he was in the arena.
I am thankful that I am healthy and able to ride my horse.
I am thankful that Harley is gentle and quiet enough to carry Sweet Pea with us for short walks around the yard.
I am thankful for every minute that I get to spend with my horse and for the eight wonderful years we have adventured together thus far!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tips for the Horse Who Coughs

If you have been reading for a while you know that my beloved quarter horse, Harley, has an allergic cough.  His condition gradually emerged just before he turned 14 years old.  I had him blood tested and gave him immunotherapy shots for several years.  His symptoms include a cough which ranges from absent and/or mild to persistent and chronic.  There has been a couple scary situations where he had a near asthma-attack.  The cough can be controlled with bronchodilators (expensive) for immediate relief and steroids (time consuming to give, daily injections for a week) for inflammation of the airways.  Both of these treatments only address the symptoms and are time sensitive, meaning the faster he gets the medicine the less dramatic (hopefully) his coughing spell will be.  At best, his cough is annoying to him.  At worst, the cough can prevent a horse from eating properly, so he cannot maintain condition or deprive him of oxygen to his gut (or stress him enough) and cause colic.  The cough does damage to his airways which is probably permanent and this type of condition tends to worsen with time.  His affliction is often referred to as "heaves", but I do not usually refer to Harley this way, because when I picture a heavy horse, I picture a horse who is standing in the pasture huffing and puffing and basically looking miserable.  That does not describe Harley.  He is not huffing or puffing and most people do not realize that there is anything wrong with him at all, unless they happen to be around when his cough acts up.  There is no cure for allergies, but careful management can make a big difference.  Often management of the horse's environment is just as important as having the right medications on hand in case the symptoms escalate.

I have decided to put together a list of things that seem to be working for Harley.  As always, consult your veterinarian if your horse has a cough for any reason.  A cough in an equine is nothing to sneeze at! 

This is how we roll these days.  No more sandy rings!

 Tips for the Horse Who Coughs:
  1. Offer 24/7 turnout preferably not in a dusty paddock.
  2. Reduce barn time as much as possible (or better yet never bring your horse into the barn).  Find ways to care for your horse in the fresh air.
  3. Do not groom your horse, especially before a ride (if your horse can handle exercise) or if you need to trim his feet .  I have found that not grooming Harley before we ride makes it more likely that a coughing fit will not interrupt our fun and his exercise.  I also cannot trim his feet if he is coughing, so no matter how much I want to wipe off the layer of dirt, I ignore it and focus on his feet instead.
  4. Only groom your horse with a damp sponge/cloth or give him a bath instead of using dusty brushes.
  5. Groom your horse in fresh air.  I have had good luck letting Harley graze while I groom him after a ride.  He seems to be less bothered by the dust when his nose is down toward the ground.
  6. Replace your old dusty brushes!  Keep your grooming tools clean.
  7. Exercise is good for your horse as long as his symptoms are under control.  Figure out what level of activity your horse can handle and adjust accordingly or consider retirement (or semi-retirement).  Harley has been doing well with 30 minutes of exercise at a time.  He is not tired or winded after 30 minutes and could probably go longer, but I don't want to push him to his limit.  I also don't have time for long rides these days (see my last post)!  I would probably ride him for longer than that if we went on a trail ride and the extra time was spent walking.
  8. Do not ride in a dusty arena.  Indoor arenas are most certainly out of the question unless they are meticulously groomed and/or have special footing.  We are having good luck riding on grass.
  9. If you trail ride with others, lead the pack so your horse does not inhale the dust from the other horses.
  10. If you horse is coughing before you pull him from the paddock, he is probably in need of medicine to control his symptoms.
  11. Coughing tends to escalate, so treat symptoms as soon as you notice that they are worse than your horse's normal baseline cough.  This will take some figuring out on the caregiver's part.  Do not expect your horse to "work out of his cough".  This type of cough is NOT the same as the horse who coughs a couple times at the beginning of exercise and then is good to go.
  12. Most importantly, listen to your horse and adjust his care accordingly.  Consult your veterinarian and barn manager.  Work together to improve your horse's living environment so that he can be medication free as often as possible.
Sweet Pea likes sandboxes; Harley does not.

Climbing into the riding ring already!?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Horse Life Post-Baby

My life is so different now.

My life used to revolve around, well, me: my job, my horse, my exercise routine.  You get the idea.

My life now revolves around Sweet Pea. I have had to streamline my life to meet the needs of this adorable little person.  This means that I do not have hours of time to dedicate to myself, which also means that my horse life has taken a serious hit.  I cannot visit Harley everyday.  I cannot spend four hours straight at the barn.  Hour-long grooming sessions are out.  My schedule is so tight that I do not have the patience for most groundwork.  There really isn't time for "training" my horse or preparing for the next level or goal or what have you.  I AM riding, but my riding activities are so different.

Years ago, the idea of having to give up or reduce so much horse time would have been completely abhorrent to me.  Even last year, when I first returned to work and Sweet Pea was barely out of the newborn stage, I thought that I could get it back.

But then I realized that being a Mommy and parenting the way I want to parent is very important to me.  I realized that being there for Sweet Pea and watching her grow and change is as wonderful and amazing as my passion for horses.

I know what some horse girls will be thinking right now.  Oh, that could never be me.  But what you have to understand is that I was that girl, too.

I have a friendly piece of advice that you might not want to hear.  If you are thinking of starting a family and there is something that you want to do with your horse, do it now.

If you decide to have children, you will have to make choices and you might not be able to fit it all in.  That is okay.  You might just surprise yourself.

For example, you want to know what I love the most about riding right now?  The creak of the saddle leather when I first get on and the contented way Harley marches past the riding ring and towards the woods and field.

We have given up the ring for the time being.  I don't have the time to ride consistently enough to train in the arena and Harley does much better away from the dust. I have discovered that the grassy area next to the paddocks is level enough for riding, so we walk, trot, and canter out there.  Once the ticks die, we will hit the trails some more, too.

I ride Harley once or twice a week. I still trim his feet, which can be a challenge to keep up with, and I manage his allergies as best I can. I am very grateful for any ride that we have together, because last year he was not rideable for many months.

So my horse life is not just different because of Sweet Pea. It is also different because Harley is different; he cannot work as hard as he used to.  He wants to move forward, but sucking up his own dust while practicing on a circle is not good for him (he coughs).  He still loves to canter and listen for little cues to change bend or step sideways.  He is 16 and a half years old, but I cannot detect any stiffness or soreness in his body.  Our years of dressage work are paying dividends now as we ride without fences and with the unpredictability of nature (we see deer, squirrels, turtles, hawks, snakes, and other horses).  I ask Harley to stay balanced, on my aids, and off his forehand not because it is the proper way to ride, but because there could be uneven ground under our feet or the need to slow down or move over without much notice.

I am over the moon that I have a horse who can chill in the paddock all week and then go out for a ride on Saturday with no fuss.  My lifestyle and my horse's health have changed, but Harley has found himself a new niche.

And don't get me wrong, I am still a horse girl.  I still get the impossible-to-ignore itch to go ride, but nowadays, I will be home before dinner.

P.S. If you know of a user-friendly blogging app for the andriod tablet, please share.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Guess what? No grain.

Harley is a hardkeeper and always has been.  So I am almost in disbelief in writing this. 

He is no longer receiving a grain ration.

For years, he ate lots and lots of expensive, high-calorie grain (Ultium) and it kept him in weight, but I was never comfortable with the quantity he was consuming.  If we tried to reduce his feed, he would lose condition and we would have to bump him up again.  We tried different strategies like supplements, beet pulp, and alfalfa pellets, but all of them failed or were rejected by him.  He eats very slowly and has to finish so much food that it would take forever for him to eat his meals.  I am glad that he doesn't bolt his food, but I always worried about how much concentrate he was packing away.

So why the change?

Well, like many things with Harley, he initiated it himself.  He has been eating haystretcher pellets with his grain since last fall and he loves them.  He also loves hay.  So much so that he started leaving his grain before it was finished to eat his hay.  At first this was alarming, but his appetite was clearly fine and his weight didn't drop even over the winter.  I have been riding him much less so his caloric requirements are less than they ever have been since I have owned him.  The barn owner systematically reduced his grain over time and little by little he stopped eating it altogether.  I found a sugar-free ration balancer to add to his evening meals and that was that.  I have a grain-free horse.

We are keeping a close eye on his weight, but so far so good. He has been off grain completely for two weeks now.  He looks great with dapples and shine.  He feels good AND my board bill is considerably cheaper.  I was paying extra for all that grain.  I would be very happy if he stayed off grain for the rest of his life.  I think that it is safest for him, given his respiratory condition, and I have a plan in my back pocket if he starts to drop weight during fly season or with the light riding I hope to do this summer.

This is a post that I never thought possible for my sweet Harley.

The dapples are back!

This was how we spent part of Mother's Day.

Good boy, Harley

Pony time is awesome!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Farewell Helmet, Hello New Blue

Recently, I conducted a little helmet research.  I visited a couple reputable sites and learned that the life of a rider's helmet is about five years or one fall from a horse.  Since I have been riding Harley lightly this spring, I determined that a new helmet was most likely in order.  I figured that my helmet is probably about five years old by now and should be replaced.  So I checked the date of manufacture on the inside of my helmet and was surprised to see these numbers:



It looks like my trusty helmet has surpassed its life expectancy, which is not entirely a good thing.  While it does mean that I never bit the dirt in my buckskin-colored helmet (a very good thing!), it also means that the years of heat, sweat, and grime have taken their toll and possibly left my head not as well protected as it should have been while astride my horse.  I probably bought that helmet some time during 2007, during my first year with Harley, so although it may not have survived seven years exactly on my head, it has certainly been a part of me for more than five.  With this revelation, I embarked on a new helmet search.

My priorities for a schooling helmet are simple: safety, comfort, and room for my long hair.  I selected my last helmet, because it had an adjustable fit and a "pony-tail port".  This was a wonderful solution to the problem of having one's hair get tangled in the helmet dial.  While I like the option to minutely adjust the fit of my helmet, there are some really nice helmets out there that do not have dials and I am not exactly sharing my helmet with anyone, so I branched out to some brands that I have never worn before.

New brand, style, and color on the left!  My old helmet on the right.

I decided to give the Tipperary Sportage a whirl.  I selected size medium in navy blue and waited axniously for my new helmet to arrive.  In less than a week it was in my hands and on my head in the kitchen. 

My first impression: I love it!

The helmet was comfortable and fit my head right out of the box.  No adjustments of the padding were necessary.  Although the helmet lacks a pony-tail port, my hair can be secured just below the helmet with no problem.  I love how this helmet covers more of the back of my head and fits snugly, but without pressure points.  It almost feels like I am wearing a pillow on my head.  Seriously.

Evidence of the test ride.

Harley approves of rider safety.

With two rides under my helmet, I can honestly say that my first impression is sticking.  I think this helmet is more comfortable than my last one ever was, even when new.  We will see if I miss the larger visor when the sun is high, but, so far, I am really liking my new "head pillow"!

In the new helmet!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

16 Years, 10 Months, and 2 Rides

Last week Harley and Sweet Pea shared a birthday.

Harley turned sixteen years old and Sweet Pea turned ten months old on the same day!  We celebrated with a barn visit and carrots.  Thankfully, the weather was beautiful.  I tossed carrots to Harley while Sweet Pea giggled with delight as he gobbled them from his feed tub.  It was almost a game of fetch, except there was crunching instead of retrieving.  After the snacks, I walked around the farm, visiting and taking in the fresh air.  We have been stuck inside quite a bit this winter, so that was a very nice change.  When we returned to Harley's paddock, he reached his head and neck over the fence to commune with us.  Sweet Pea reached out a little hand to touch his face after watching me pet his nose.  Harley dropped his head and let her feel his long, sun-bleached forelock, which she thought was very amusing.  She tested his hair with a little tug.   Harley didn't move a muscle.  We stayed and petted him for a while before returning to the car.  It was very enjoyable.

Which Sweet Pea was having her fun, a couple times Harley made eye contact with me.  I could almost hear him saying that this is not how we normally spend our time.  Normally we groom for an hour and then tack up and ride for another hour.  More time would be spent untacking, grooming and grazing.  Gosh, I used to spend hours at the barn, any day of the week, any time that I wanted (almost).  A lot more planning and prep goes into my barn visits now, and obviously if Sweet Pea tags along, Harley and I stay on opposite sides of the fence, but at least he gets attention and carrots and Sweet Pea is getting some early lessons in how to be around horses.  I had to wait until I was seven years old and beg for months before my parents agreed to some lessons, so she is very lucky by my standards.

Speaking of riding, guess who rode for the first time at eight months old!

I hope to repeat the experience again (and again).  Harley, Mommy, Daddy, and baby all have to be available and willing and the weather has to cooperate.  This first ride was spontaneous.  Harley was feeling good, the day was warm enough and my husband happened to bring Sweet Pea along for a barn visit.  Harley was excellent.  So patient and slow.  He didn't mind when SweetPea started babbling excitedly.  She loved it.  So did I.

And I got to ride, too. Yesterday, I rode Harley for twenty minutes at the walk. Even though we were only walking, I tried to relish the chance to move around. I challenged myself to ride from the middle of my horse and my body. I encouraged his posture with my own.  I tried to imagine him staying round and balanced as we circled, turned, and took a few steps of shoulder-in. The reins stayed pretty loopy, but my horse moved with a nice soft arch over his back and neck.  His muscle memory was intact, even though we were both out of shape, to say the least.

Then I asked for trot.  We had a false start with some coughing, but then he zoomed off and I had pay attention and sit up, because he was so energetic.  He felt great!  We only trotted for a couple minutes.  A few circles in each direction.  His tempo was very erratic but he was stretching to the bit eagerly and thoroughly enjoying pushing off in trot. I forced myself to keep the trotting under five minutes by watching my clock.  No sense in ruining a good thing or over doing it.  I loved every minute.

Happy Sweet Sixteen Harley!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Rider Confessions

I have been busy.  Do you want to know how busy?  I haven't ridden Harley in six months.


Except for a couple short walks in the yard or through the woods, we have not been riding.  At first this was because my schedule is insane.  I am a new Mom and I work full-time.  My husband and I live a juggling act right now.  Many of my barn visits this winter were in the dark.  Once or twice I stopped for a couple moments and caught a gorgeous sight: the stars over my horse's head, bathed in moonlight.  It was stunning and made me realize just how fast I have been moving and just how much my life has changed over the past year.  Some of it has been the most wonderful moments of my life, some utterly stressful, and others have been sad.

You see, for a while now, my lack of rides on Harley cannot be blamed on my schedule.  Reality led to feelings of resignation.  My horse has a respiratory condition (coughing due to allergies) and there is not a whole lot that I can do about it.  I want him to be comfortable and happy, but I want other things, too.

I want to ride.

I love riding and nothing makes me happier than riding my horse.  Somewhere in October, I gave up riding him.  It was too upsetting to tack up and get on only to get off two minutes later because he was starting to cough.  More than once, I pulled his tack without mounting.  More than once, I left the barn in tears.  Eventually, it was easier not to try.  Of course, then the weather got terrible and no one was riding, so I just took care of my horse as best I could and tried to enjoy him as a pet and carrot-eating machine.  There were other difficulties that arose due to his respiratory sensitivities, but I am glossing over them for now.  Needless to say, it has been a really long winter.

And then last Saturday happened.

It was 60+ degrees and I decided to sit on my horse with just a saddle pad and his bridle.  I have been hopping on his back in just a halter now and then for short walks, because I just missed it so much, but this time I decided to take down his bridle...

...We walked around for a bit and I got the idea to ask for some leg yields (this is part of my motivation for riding in a halter.  I can't resist doing more).  I shortened my reins a little and started to apply my leg and just like that we were trotting!  I started to laugh and then remembered that I was not riding in a proper bareback pad.  I asked Harley to walk and told him how happy I was that he wanted to trot, but that I had asked for sideways.  We went back and he gave me the leg yields eagerly.  To the left was super easy.  To the right was crooked, but I could not have been happier.  Harley was in my hands a bit now and I could feel the impulsion brewing even though we were only walking.  He was begging to trot.  All he needed was a whisper from me.

I let him trot and he stopped abruptly in a mild coughing fit.  I patted him knowingly, not wanting to go down that path of disappointment, but then he stopped coughing and I felt the energy bubbling up again.

I am weak.  I just can't resist the feeling of riding my horse.  Of thinking together, moving together, and sharing happiness.

I let him trot again, but this time, he didn't cough.  In fact, he was full of it!  I stopped him because he wanted to rush off.  He wanted speed.  He wanted to canter.  He wanted to ride as much as I did!

After a couple tiny trotting spurts, I had a tough time convincing him that that was all we were doing, so we left the ring and walked around in the yard.

Cue snorts of happiness.  (from Harley,  not me)

My horse is not fit.  He is not 100% healthly (although he is totally sound of limb) and I am not sure what level of activity or fitness he can manage.  He has good days and bad.  But maybe, he is not quite ready to stop riding.

Maybe.  I am cautiously optimistic.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Memoirs: A Horse Girl Rides Tackless

There are few things in this world that I have loved as long or as unconditionally as I have horses and riding.  When I was in middle school, there was a period of time where I could not take lessons, so I improvised.  My Oma lived near two older, Arabian ponies, the very same ponies that I first touched and sat upon as a three-year-old child.  I brought my brushes and a lead line and (with permission) gave those old horses the grooming of their lives. After a couple visits, I grew tired of just brushing them.  Obviously, I wanted to ride, too.  I poked around the barn looking for a saddle or bridle, but there wasn't much to be found.  I vaguely remember a dusty, Western saddle, which I could never have lifted at the time, and a loose bit hanging on a hook, but this was far from workable gear. So I did what any determined, horse-crazy girl would do; I decided to ride without tack.

First, I tied my lead line to the gelding's halter.  I wanted to ride him, because he was the more feisty of the two.  I saved the mare, the sweet Littlebit, for my sister to ride, if the experiment went well with King.  King enjoyed being brushed and fed carrots, but he wasn't completely on board with the whole riding thing.  He probably hadn't been ridden in a good ten years and did not show signs of missing it.  It took some coaxing to get him to stand on the low part of a slope, so that I could climb on.  I had never mounted without a block or a stirrup, so my first attempts were very awkward and probably hilarious to a bystander.  I wonder if the owners could see me from their house?

Once on King's back, I was cautious.  I patted and talked to him, trying to show the old boy that I just wanted a little time on his back.  I must have gotten on him a dozen times and just stood there, content to just sit, but eventually I wanted more.  One day, I took the lead line-reins and turned King around. Then I gave him a little nudge with my heels.  Unsurprisingly, he wouldn't move.  I tried several times, each time more insistence.  King had obviously mastered the stubborn pony routine long ago and was not the least persuaded by my efforts.  After careful thought, I formulated a better plan.  I slid off his back and walked him by hand away from the paddock gate and the mare (who was actually his sister).  I positioned him on the low part of the hill, so that I could (more) easily hop onto his back.  I knew before I got on, that my plan was going to work.  Suddenly, there was life in the old horse's eyes and a new anxiousness.  He wanted to be back at the gate.  I grabbed mane flung my leg over and clucked.  My pony cantered up the hill eagerly and stopped at the mare.


I had done it! I had ridden King without a saddle or a bridle and survived!

And so began many happy visits where I rode King up the hill to his sister.  I dare say, he grew to enjoy our short jaunts, because he became less and less ornery.  I was even able to ask him to wait for my signal to run up the hill and later on, I was able to steer him around the paddock in his halter. He did try to buck me off a couple times when I urged him to walk away from his sister, but thankfully my young legs were wrapped tightly around his barrel and my butt never left his back.  I always rewarded him with carrots when he was compliant and eventually I had my sister riding the mare, so walking away from her was no longer a problem.  I learned a lot from those short, bareback rides and I think of them fondly.

I was reminded of what it is like to ride in a halter a little while ago.  I had not sat on my horse in many, many weeks.  I looked at his blanketed back and the thick rope lead line.  I looked at Harley and asked, "Are you up for a walk? "

Thankfully, he was.  I felt like a kid riding my pony again, but without any anxiousness about how he might behave, because this was Harley, and I knew he would be a good boy.  We walked around the yard and the riding ring, paying visits to the other horses and just enjoying one another's company. Harley snorted with happiness and I felt that twinge of excitement at being on my horses back tackless.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Backup Blanket

Do you have one (or three)?

I never used to, in fact, I didn't own a blanket of any kind for the first several years of horse ownership.  My horse grew a warm coat and none of the other horses were blanketed, so mine followed suit.  When I did finally buy a winter blanket for Harley, he only wore it at night and the temperatures were rarely below twenty degrees Fahrenheit.  He wore the blanket to help him maintain weight.  I never actually saw him shiver or show signs of being cold.  The plan worked very well and that blanket is going on its third season.

However, this year I got an itch. I felt the need to buy a second blanket.  Maybe it was because this blanket is getting on in years.  Maybe it was my need to make Harley feel better in a time in his life when he is not "healthy as a horse".  Whatever it was, I bought a second blanket somewhat on impulse and kept it, unopened, in my dining room.  I wasn't sure if I would use it this year, but that was fine with me.

Then in mid-December when we had some crazy-low temperatures (5 degrees Fahrenheit) and an impending winter storm, my barn owner approached me about the dropping temperatures and what I wanted done with Harley.  I gleefully exclaimed that I HAD a second blanket!

So the backup blanket was hung on his door in preparation for the bitter, upcoming night.  The idea was that he would wear BOTH blankets.

The coldest of nights arrived and I slept soundly knowing my horse was warm in his two blankets.  The next morning I drove out to see him and gawked at how handsome he looked in his new blanket, but when I got a little closer I realized something...

...he was only wearing one blanket. 

Sporting the new blanket

That was odd.  What happened to the other blanket?

I found it in the barn and could hardly believe my eyes.  Ice lined the bottom edge of the blanket where water had run down the blanket and frozen in place before leaving the surface of the blanket.  The blanket could almost stand up by itself!

The icy blanket

I am happy to report that the waterproofing held up and Harley was dry under his ice blanket.  He also did just fine with one, ice-free blanket.  I had never seen anything like that before (I guess I have been lucky).  Thank goodness for backup blankets!

First good snow pics of the farm since winter 2009/2010!

And Sweet Pea's first snow!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Living In The Moment In 2014

Twenty-thirteen was a very unusual year for me.  I was pregnant for half of it, had my beautiful, baby girl, and spent the rest on the high-speed train that is motherhood.  I rode my horse until I was about thirty weeks pregnant and then loved on him until July.   The saddle never felt so good as those first couple rides.  Fitting riding in was very tough and not without incident (mistakes in timing as far as baby was concerned), but my barn time remained a means to recharge my batteries.

Harley and I had our seven year anniversary in December.  This year, I have ridden him the least since we have been a pair, but he has never been far from my thoughts.

Unfortunately, 2013 also seems to be the year that Harley's coughing has gained momentum beginning in mid-September.  I spent many visits checking his comfort, measuring medication, administering it, and wishing for a magic cure.  My husband and family helped me juggle the baby after work and on the weekends so that I could tend to my horse.  I was very grateful, but not without that guilty feeling that I  was asking too much or letting someone down.  As baby became a little easier to manage (i.e. three hours between nursing sessions, thank goodness), I wished for fun times with my horse instead of emotionally stressful visits when I wondered how he would be feeling.  Riding him, even at the walk, stopped being an option.

On a positive note, I am so very lucky to have the people in my life helping me out: my husband, his family, my Mom and Dad, my barn owners who take such good care of Harley, and friends who look out for him and do things like remove his blanket on a warm day.  I had to learn to rely more on others in 2013.  When I am able, I hope that I can return the favors.

What will 2014 have in store for us?

I know that Sweet Pea will continue to be an amazing adventure.  My life is not easy right now, but it is also filled with some of the most charming, fascinating, and delightful moments that I never could have imagined before our baby was born.  My baby is sleeping in my lap as I write this post (with one finger swiping on my tablet) and she is just so gorgeous.  She sits up now and says "bababa" with the cutest little voice.  One tooth is just peaking through and her eyes are blue with blond hair coming in.  She smiles gigantic grins and hugs me, even pinching me in excitement when we are reunited or playing a game of hide and seek with Daddy.

Work is and will probably continue to be a challenge.  This has not been an easy school year.  My husband coined it well when he said that everyday feels like Groundhog Day (the movie, of course).

And then there is Harley.  I wish for his problem to go into remission, but that, my friends, is a big wish.  I want to ride him again and have fun together.  As it is right now, I can barely groom him, for fear that he will start coughing and require another round of meds.  Sometimes I dream of cantering along or riding through the woods and other times, I try not to think about it.  If I visit him and he is okay, then that is a good day.  Maybe the spring will be better for us.  He was very rideable last summer, so I guess that I just need to be patient and optimistic.  He is still friendly and sweet and with a healthy appetite, so all is not lost.  Oh yeah, and his weight looks great.  Imagine that.

I hope to snap a few pictures of me and Sweet Pea on Harley together.  Those are moments that I can wait for in 2014.

First time on a horse at seven months old.  It had to be Harley!
Here's to the year of the horse.  Harley needs some good luck!