We are looking for amateurs…

As some of you may know, the team of Poor Amateurs has been looking rather thin lately. That is the essence of the “poor” portion of the name, after all. If we can’t afford to ride, that does eliminate a lot of our blogging material. It’s rather unfortunate, but that is the way of life for equestrians. We spend our time making money to pour it into this sport and these animals and rarely, if ever, see any kind of financial return. But we keep doing it, day after day.

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This was my first ride after I broke my ankle. Amanda Lee was there in a heartbeat to be with me while I rode. (April 2015).

It’s funny. When Amanda Lee and I started this blog, neither of us had any idea what would come from it. I never would have thought that anyone would read this blog. I never envisioned this blog would be so widely read, that something I wrote would go viral, that anything at all would come of this… More importantly, I never thought I would be in the position of looking for another blogging partner.

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We were such babies ❤ (February? 2008)

I want to make it explicitly clear that Amanda Lee and I are still on good terms. She is more than a best friend to me; she’s my sister. (Seriously, we have a wild conspiracy theory that we’re actually twins separated at birth. We were literally born on the same day in the same hospital. Coincidence? I think not!) She’ll always be a part of my life. But Amanda Lee has decided that this particular part of my life is something she is not going to continue.

From Amanda Lee:

 “I stopped blogging when horses became my job. I just wasn’t comfortable writing so much about other people’s horses, especially since they were my responsibility in other ways. Also, I am not exactly an amateur. But I do hope to start blogging again in the future, most likely elsewhere.”

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I can’t imagine life without my sister, honestly. (This was summer 2008.)

I’ve had a hard time writing this blog post. I started writing it seven days ago, to be completely honest. Continuing on feels so write, but without Amanda Lee, it just feels incomplete. She’s always been there to support me, and I her. She continues to assure me that she will support me blogging here.

This brings me to my next point. One of the best parts of this blog was the fact that it was so active with two authors. I’m obviously doing what I can to maintain activity here. But I’ve also discovered that you, my lovely readers and followers, love the idea of multiple points of view. So this is my formal announcement that I am seeking additional writers for the site. Please click here to apply!

I am so excited at the prospect of working with some new writers because it is a way to constantly continue improving. But it will take some time for me to get used to blogging without Amanda Lee. It’s already been enough of an adjustment not even being in the same state anymore… Me being here, in Florida, with Amanda Lee home in Georgia is the farthest we’ve ever lived away from each other since we met a decade ago. So to those who are interested in applying, I encourage you to do your best and show me what you’ve got. Even with her tiny calves and tinier feet, Amanda Lee has left quite a big pair of shoes to fill.

Until then, my dear readers…

 

Just in case you couldn’t see it before, please click this link to apply: https://goo.gl/forms/XCH1UjcF6Fp6Y4dw2

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Blog Hop: Dealbreakers

So this is a super fun blog hop and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s responses! Shout out to Amanda for coming up with this one. And shout out to Olivia for blogging about it so I could read it and then read everyone’s responses.

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“Don’t try to ride ’em. A lot of people try to ride ’em.” – Jo Bennett, The Office (US)

When I was a junior, hungry for saddle time, you could have blindfolded me and sat me on anything with four legs that even slightly resembled a horse, and I would have been happy to ride it. Like we’re talking you could have told me to show jump a brahma bull or play polo on a 2-point buck, and I would have been just peachy. But as I’ve gotten older, especially since my accident and starting to pay for my own healthcare, I have gotten a little bit pickier about what animal I’m riding. (For starters, I prefer them all be members of the Equus genus.)

So to summarize, before y’all get bored with me for rambling, these are my dealbreakers:

  • Anything super big. Like we’re talking bigger than 17 hands.
  • Anything that looks like it is not healthy enough to be ridden, due to whatever circumstances.
  • Anything overworked.
  • Anything I don’t trust.

Due to whatever experiences in my past, these are my lines in the sand. If a horse you tell me to ride fits in these categories, all you’ll get from me is, “Nah. Swerve.”

Big horses? But Kelsey, you’re pretty tall! And, you know…not little.

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I’ll leave the Giant Horse to Hyrule’s champion. (Seriously, I don’t even want to do this quest in Breath of the Wild.)

Yeah, that’s right. I’m 5’6″ (167cm), so I am technically taller than average. And that is correct, I am not thin or fit. But here’s the thing: a lot of people who work with horses are small. I’ve had more trainers and coaches in my life who are shorter than me than who are taller. Jockeys are known to be short––required, even, in some circumstances! Horses are big. They are significantly heavier than people. And a lot of them are significantly taller. I’ve worked with plenty of big horses, and I’ve been hurt by a lot of big horses. My buddy Audio was really helping me get past that fear and anxiety, but when I broke my ankle while riding him, it reinforced the fear in my mind. Obviously this was purely coincidental, as Audio was not the cause of my injury and I would have been just as broken had I ridden any other horse in the barn that day. But changing that association, my friends, is what therapists do.

Can you really tell if a horse is healthy just by looking at it?

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Sound, sane, and surprisingly large. Oh, and Audio is in the picture too! (Taken in 2015.)

Well… Healthy is a bit of a relative term here. Now, anyone who knows anything about horses knows how to tell when a horse is physically unsound. It is easy to see lameness in legs, soreness in backs, and stiffness in bones. It is easy to see open wounds. It is easy to see the fear or anxiety in a horse. So if I see any red flags like not putting weight on a leg or claustrophobia in the stall, I will probably find a different horse or simply not ride. Obviously, some issues are harder to see. Neurological problems aren’t always immediately visible; neither are gut issues or breathing difficulties or forming abscesses. (Author’s note: I started to rant, like a lot, so I’m shortening this next bit and you’ll see my animal rights manifesto in a future post!) But the fact of the matter is that we, as horsewomen and horsemen, as horse people, are entirely responsible for the care that our horses receive.

 

What do you mean by overworked? Or… “I believe riding horses at all is overworking them!”

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A mare who is happy to work. And an Amanda Lee who is happy to ride!

To those of you that criticize anyone who rides horses, myself included, please just stop. Go eat your sad vegan tofu bacon and vegetables covered in dirt. Riding horses is not in itself an abusive act. Riding horses improperly can start to border on abuse. (But we’ll get more into that in aforementioned future post.)

A horse may depend on us for things like shelter or food or medical care, but the fact is that they do the things we ask because they like their jobs. Horses jump over car-sized ditches and pirouette and rear on command in movies because they feel their compensation is fair. If they did not like running up to and lifting themselves over colorful poles or pointing their toes at the trot, they would simply not do it. Yes, it really is that simple. They are bigger, stronger, faster, and more stubborn than us. If a horse has been bullied into doing its job too often, like some riding schools and lesson programs do, it will not be happy. That ole reliable Doc or Blaze might not put up a fight when collected from their paddock. But does he honestly seem pleasant? Does he seem willing to go? Does he seem happy? If not, then I want no part of adding to that horse’s misery, and full stop I will not ride him.

Kelsey, horses are wonderful animals and so much better than people and you can trust any horse with anything and life is full of rainbows and sunshine.

No. Just no. If a horse has hurt me too egregiously in the past or pushed me significantly too far out of my comfort zone, I. Will. Not. Get. On. The same goes for people. I am a person who prides myself on the patience I have. I can forgive people for a lot of things, sometimes things I should not forgive them for. Frankly, I have a recurring problem in my life of trusting too much and too quickly, and it’s gotten me hurt in many ways. You know what? It’s not fun to get hurt. I live in the United States in 2017, and I can say, all my life to this point and probably for the next decade, that healthcare is outrageously expensive. If a horse has sent me to the hospital or even urgent care before, it’s unlikely that I’ll mount up and try again.

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My wonderful Squirt, Ariel. Our relationship is strictly confined to the ground only!

Even my wonderful niece pony Ariel, who I love so very much and have known for at least ten years, does not have my full trust. On the ground, I would walk her into fires and floods and trust that she would not hurt me. But we have tried riding before, and it was honestly disastrous. Ariel is absolutely my ride: she’s about 15 hands, has a lot of go and not a lot of whoa, hunts for jumps like a dog to a squirrel, and she demands an active ride. However, Ariel gives her trust to very few people. She made it clear that she didn’t trust me where she couldn’t see me, and she didn’t like the way my body spoke to hers. I was too tense and expected fireworks. So Ariel became a self-fulfilling prophecy. She gave me the explosion I was looking for. For nearly twenty minutes, I could not get this mare to relax. I’m actually pretty certain she didn’t breathe for large periods of time. We were each looking for support and assurance from the other, and we both had none to offer. I’ve only had a horse run away with me one other time in my life––and he was also quite big.


Amanda asked, so I gave my answers. Upon rereading this post, I feel like it is also a psychological profile of sorts. But hey, that’s probably why I’m a writer anyways. I just have a lot of feelings and thoughts. So to you, my lovely readers, thanks for listening. It means a lot.

Now I want to know about you!

Tell me about some of your dealbreakers. What are the disqualifications that have you saddling down? (Sorry, that was a terrible joke. Not sorry, because I’m leaving it.)

Lesson Report 8/10/17 – Kelsey on Wyatt

Sorry for the delay, y’all. Between being sick and hiding from the world for a bit, this post is overdue!


I walked into work and closed up my umbrella and took off Remy’s raincoat. My coworker, Mark, bid me good morning: “Welcome to the Sunshine State, Kelsey.” Welcome, indeed. It was practically a monsoon outside, of course, on the first day I had gotten to ride in months. And it rained. All. Day. Long.

Even though the barn and my office are only about twenty minutes apart, it had quit raining a couple hours earlier down south. After texting with the trainer for a little while, I decided to make the drive down to the barn anyways. It had been a stressful day after a long week, so sitting in traffic made me that much more tense.

There’s this weird thing in my life where names occur repeatedly. I don’t know if that’s like an actual thing, or if that’s just the pareidolia aspect of my anxiety, but either way, names always get repeated in my life. As if it wasn’t ironic enough that the girl who was lessoning with me was also named Kelsey, my new trainer’s name is Amanda, not at all to be confused with Amanda Lee. Yeah, welcome to confusion in my brain, y’all. But I digress…

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Wyatt, the wonder pony! Photo is owned by Amanda Myman.

Amanda told me that my ride today was Wyatt.

Okay, I need to digress again. The first horse I lessoned on when I was in school in Virginia was also named Wyatt. And it was a fantastic lesson. My coach described him to me as, “He is literally so perfect, he farts rainbows.” She wasn’t kidding, either. Wy-wy was magnificent.

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High Noon, aka Wyatt Owned and loved by Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry College Photo copyright Lynlee Dutton at Neighland Farm

Wyatt is a sweetheart, honestly. Amanda said he was the perfect horse to ride to just relax after a hard day. His version of “being naughty” was turning his head sideways and just a little bit of laying on your inside leg. And he did not like his front right hoof to be picked. That was it. That was my only problem with him the whole time, from pulling him out of his stall to putting him away. He was wonderful.

Because the arena was gross a pit of fresh clay, we decided to do a flat lesson. Even then, we stuck to the walk and trot. I haven’t ridden but a handful of times since I broke my ankle, and I’ve taken fewer lessons than that. So I was grateful that Amanda decided to take it easy on me. Living on a second-floor walkup and working on the second floor (again, no elevator) may not sound so bad, but when you’re sore from no stirrups or lack of consistent riding, that one flight of stairs seems like the cruel and unusual punishment.

A lot of my old habits have come back in my time off. Or did they even ever go away? I still have trouble keeping my fingers closed. And I still over-post to compensate for my lack of leg strength. And my shoulders still drop. And my leg still pitches forward. What was surprising, though, was how quickly I was able to correct these issues and they even stayed corrected. By no mens did I perfect these issues, but I didn’t hear nearly as many “Close your fingers” as I have in the past. Same goes for shoulders and posting. The leg, though, is an issue as always. This problem did prompt a discussion about saddle fit, both on horse and on rider.

Guys, it’s so hard not to name drop about my job and tell you all about it because I’m learning a lot more about fitting saddles to riders and horses. I’ve ridden in probably hundreds of saddles at this point in my life, and I always knew there was more to the fit of the saddle than the seat size, but I’ve never had the opportunity to learn until now. The flap length and position makes a huge difference on where a rider’s leg will sit, which of course affects the rest of the ride. Similarly, the way the saddle’s cantle and seat hold a rider affects everything above and below the seat. My current saddle is not my favorite saddle, but it was a way for me to have a saddle that I knew would fit my leg. It’s an Ovation Jumping Saddle. They have fantastic leather, especially for something mass produced like this. But the problem is that their panels and seats have a really steep pitch, so it really pushes a rider’s hips forward and out of place.

Once Kelsey and I were both warmed up and stretched out, Amanda had us work on figure-8s at the trot. Hi, I’m the (self-proclaimed) IEA Queen. I was always so ready for this test in a flat class but I never got to ride it and honestly I’m very sad about it. A lot of people think that a figure-8 through the arena is okay. FALSE! I’ve done a rudimentary drawing here to show the correct path of a figure-8 in an equitation test type setting.

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Knowing my luck, this will be the image that shows up across social media. I am an artist of words, not of images.

The red path is what a lot of people assume, including little Kelsey (the one who rode in my lesson, and also 13-year-old me before I had the correct path schooled into my brain). The green path is what needs to be performed. Judges and trainers are honestly not that impressed that you can ride down the short side of the arena and cut through the middle. That’s not impressive horsemanship. Frankly, two circles side by side isn’t that impressive either when you think about it. But the number of riders who cannot maintain pace or size in a circle is honestly surprising. There are also plenty of riders who forget to change their diagonal, change the bend of their horse, or flat out cannot make a second circle. Want to really impress the judge? Make a really circular circle. Make your circles as symmetrical or congruent as you possibly can. (Shout out to geometry class in high school for the word “congruent.”)

Amanda had me ride this figure-8 pattern four times so little Kelsey could see. It was honestly the confidence boost I needed. Since it’s been so long since I’ve ridden in a consistent program, I was worried, frankly, that I would suck. So even if it was something really simple that I did well, I still did it really, really well! And ya know, it’s kind of nice to be told that you do something well.

I talked to the best friend about it on the phone afterwards, told her how excited I was to get compliments on my flat work and on the figure-8. She asked me why I didn’t think I was good at flat work. Well, I told her, I’ve ridden so many horses and I have so many gaps in my education on basics that I always worry my riding doesn’t look like it should. After all, it’s been almost a decade and a half that I’ve ridden horses, and I just want to look as educated as I actually am (or supposedly am educated, anyways). Heather’s response? “Well that’s a shitty attitude to have about yourself.” And you know what? She’s right. That is a shitty attitude to have about anything but especially yourself. Attitude makes so much of a difference in how a person learns. So y’all, please remember how important your attitude is while you ride.


Before I left, I had to give Minka some love of course. She’s so sweet. She didn’t eat the apple I brought her, though. She took a bite and then left it alone. I don’t think she likes apples? Either that or, inevitably, she might need some dental work since she’s off the track and still growing. But there were cuddles a-plenty and Amanda told me it was absolutely possible for me to get her. Guys. Please remind me how broke I am. I can’t afford a horse right now because I can barely afford myself.

 

No worries. I’ll be riding again soon. And there are several updates to come regarding the blog, so stay tuned.

Until then, my dear readers, stay with me. ❤

Work In Progress…

I know I owe y’all a lesson report. It’s coming soon, I promise.

But with the turmoil happening in the US, especially to people I know, people I care about so deeply, I just haven’t had much will to get on the Internet the last few days.

My solemn oath is to have that report up for y’all by the end of the week.

 

 

With all my love,

Kelsey

Dawn of the First Day, 72 Years Remain

So I’ve worked at the new job for a week. I’ve been in my new apartment for almost two weeks! Florida grown-up life, I’m discovering that il coûte les yeux de la tête. Like why is everything so freaking expensive? Statesboro friends, take heed and love your low cost of living. I’m paying more than double what I paid to live down at school, and I don’t have a yard for Remy anymore, and it’s a second floor walk-up, and I have neighbors all around me again. Not gonna lie, I had really gotten used to the quiet all around in my duplex where my neighbors moved out. The people above me are possibly part elephant or participating in a medical experiment where their hands and feet have been replaced with cinderblocks. (But isn’t that everyone’s complaint of their upstairs neighbors?)

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Grown up work space! LOVING the dual monitors!

 

The new job is fantastic, though. I really enjoy it. It hasn’t been super duper exciting yet, but I still really like what I’ve been doing. I try to look for those silver linings, so my boring data entry has actually been an excellent way to get to know the system and how product is sorted on the warehouse system. I’ve figured out most of the codes/abbreviations of items, and I’ve even discovered that I remember much more French than I previously thought. It’s been a challenge, but it keeps the mind sharp, right? No I’m totally not looking to add stress into my life by taking French classes at one of the colleges around here nope don’t know what you’re talking about.

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Rem and Dill (coworker’s dog) embracing the idea of sharing

In other exciting news, I think I found a trainer. She’s a recommendation from my oh so wonderful Megan, back home in Georgia. I met her on Saturday and hung out at the farm. I’ve scheduled a lesson for Thursday, so stay tuned for that! It was so good just to love on some ponies. They were all very sweet and well cared for and interactive.

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Look at just the little tongue too!

And wouldn’t you know it, I just met a cute little hunter prospect mare and fell in love. Me, a mare. Me, the person who swears she’ll only love geldings for all her days. Me, who claims hunters are the most boring and pointless discipline (at least at the local level) to ever exist in horse shows. But oh my god when I say she was sweet, I mean this little mare must be made of honey and daisies. She’s only four years old, but she didn’t act like it at all. And when she moves, she looks like a million bucks. The trainer told me that the mare hasn’t really been worked in a month due to the owner’s absence, and she still had more muscles than my dog, which is saying something. (Hound has a six-pack. I’m not kidding.) She’s got an interesting pedigree, with notable horses including Dixie Union, A.P. Indy, Unbridled, Seattle Slew, and Mr. Prospector. Someone please stop me from spending money I don’t have to buy a horse I can’t feed.

I’m super excited for my lesson and super nervous. So hopefully I don’t completely embarrass myself. And also hopefully I can stay awake because like I said, this is EXHAUSTING being an adult. And south Florida is disgustingly hot, so hopefully I get a little break in the heat tomorrow so I don’t overheat… Y’all, just think of me tomorrow. I could use the support.

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What happens when baby horses who don’t know how to legs slip in the mud

I’m seeking some discussion here.

My go-to for minor booboos on horses, dogs, me, whatever has always been good ole MTG, even with it’s rotting bacon smell. It just works so well and so quickly. But MTG is an oil-based product, so I can’t use it on a horse who spends a lot of time in extreme temperatures (aka south Florida in the summer) because it will literally fry her skin… Is there anything y’all use that is not an oil based product?