Transitions

The end of this week marks twelve months of my being in this amazing country.

To say it’s gone fast would be an understatement. It’s challenging for me to even begin to articulate all that this year has done for me; in a rare turn of events, I’m at a loss for words. Even if I were to try and frame it in only snapshots, I have so many that they’re practically a blur.

In a brief attempt, here are some moments from this twelve months that made an impression:

  • Jan Byyny winning the 3* at Fair Hill, and me being able to say that I know her – maybe not well, but better than a lot
  • Our Really Awesome Stall Guy Juan catching a loose horse that we’d herded into a paddock and chased around for (not an exaggeration) one and a half hours, by jerry-rigging the leadrope around her head and riding her back to the gate
  • Winning a Novice (the highest level I’ve actually competed) on my leased Prix St George gelding
  • Driving to Florida – that moment when the GPS tells you, “drive south for 797 miles”
  • Our first attempt to get the OTTB Gyles over a pole (he was very… earthbound for a while)
  • Gold Cup last year, after I’d only been here a few weeks
  • Loudoun PC Horse Trails last year, after I’d only been here a week; sitting in the RV in the pouring rain watching Rolex Showjumping (the fact that I will be at Rolex this year is still pretty much incomprehensible)
  • Helping to leg up Cody, and almost literally taking my life in my hands throughout that journey
  • My trip to DC and NY in December (what a wonderful time of year to travel)
  • Hacking out on a gorgeous summer day on a little Monster Pony, surrounded by rolling green Virginian hills
  • Christmas Eve drinks at my trainer’s place
  • The moment when you go to take a horse out of the paddock and it literally can’t walk – and that happened to me twice
  • Learning that a ‘three-legged lameness’ is better than a niggle that you can see somewhat consistently but is not 100% there…
  • Being introduced to what will hopefully be my new employers on my next leg in this journey

 

…and I could go on. That list does not even come close to doing this year justice; let’s face it, nothing I write will ever be able to do that. All I know is that I have learned so much over this last year. I have never worked harder. I have had moments when I thought I would not be able to go on, and moments when I thought I could conquer the world. I’ve met horses and people that I will always remember. I’ve learnt an incredible amount about myself, my abilities, my work ethic, my hopes and dreams and aspirations, what I want to do and be both in a professional and personal sense.

It’s a gross understatement to say that this year has gone quickly. But at the same time I feel although this is all I’ve ever known, that this is my place and my past and my home.

They say home is where the heart is, and in a sense, I guess that means that part of me will always call this place home. Hard as it may be, I will make every effort to return one day, because you never truly leave your home. And even as memories fade and a new life unfolds in front of me, this place will always call to a corner of my heart.

***

The next leg of my journey begins in ten days, with a trip to the Rolex Three Day Event, followed by a stay in Chicago, before I return here for a brief soiree before I board a plane to Ireland. There I plan to learn the other half of my chosen profession; here I learnt how a competition barn functions, and with luck I will now learn how a successful sales barn runs its operations.

There’s more stress with visa applications, baggage limits, exorbitant expenses and goodbyes, but the thing is I can’t view this as an end. Even if my desire was to cut off all contact with everyone I ever met here (it isn’t, how could it be), a goodbye doesn’t equal a termination. Instead I choose the word transition; both because that’s what it is in a literal sense, and because of the charming parallel with the horse world – just because you change gaits, doesn’t mean you can let go of anything you had in the one previous. Doing so will damage your performance. Instead, you use the previous gait to influence your next one; to build, to add, and to increase the overall quality of the work you’re doing.

And that is how I view this next step. A transition.

A Selection

of quotes from the diary I have kept
whilst without internet in Florida

11/1/2014

I saw an armadillo in the garden this morning.

13/1

Spent $175 on groceries today.

I’d really love to get back into pole dancing. Seriously one of my favourite types of exercise – excellent for strength and some cardio, and just fun. I looked up places near the barn a few months ago, but unfortunately it’s crazy expensive. Add into that cost of gas and it’s just not feasible. Which is really sad because I’d so  want to do it again.

I hate it when people whose blogs I follow stop blogging because they’ve ‘found a real life’ or ‘need to get back into real life’. Partly it’s a selfish, ‘I’ve lost a form of entertainment’ annoyance; partly it’s some form of ridiculous jealousy. Like… ‘I wish I could have enough of a life to not need the internet’. Ugh.

I’m becoming obsessed with The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills and Vanderpump Rules. It’s a little sad.
Online dating profile: “Currently in a semi-serious relationship with Vanderpump Rules. Willing to sacrifice time spent with Sur staff for the right person.”

Sometimes I think my life is so depressing.

14/1

Will I always be crying alone?

16/1

These people are really fuckin weird about Pine-Sol.

17/1

Quote of the Day: “Remember that time I was at the Fork competitor’s party, sitting next to Boyd, and my mum got really drunk and started hitting on him and asking him if he rode horses?”

18/1

Also, Alison Springer’s new horse she just bought off of WFP for over a million dollars colicked really badly last week and had to be put to sleep today. Like, fuck. What… just what the hell would you do?
It’s the ultimate ‘well, that’s horses!’.

21/1

I don’t think I can actually express in words how happy it makes me to watch an episode of Buffy.

22/1

Hell is bending over a horse’s foot, attempting to pack it with Rebound, but the Rebound is frozen into a near-solid and it’s nearly impossible to dig your fingers into and in doing so you actually pull the flesh off of the underside of your nails.
It made my fucking fingernails bleed.

27/1

Well, mission accomplished. Very hungover. Got kicked out? Don’t remember. Remember dancing. Apartment smells like vomit. My head hurts.
I feel like death.

29/1

I got chills.
They’re multiplying.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a cold this bad. Certainly I’ve never noticed a fever so horrible.

31/1

“Don’t wish
don’t start.
Wishing only wounds the heart…”

2013: A Reflection

I’ve heard it said that smell is the sense most strongly connected to memory.

I’d believe that. The smell of my tinted moisturiser I use as foundation first always made me think of nights out on the town, and then when I started as a waitress and in a jewellery store, of working. The smell of the new moisturiser I got conned into buying at a large mall early on in my stay in America always makes me think of summer. The smell of febreeze will always remind me of my first night in America. Garlic and onions frying in oil conjures up pictures of my mother cooking in the kitchen back home. Coffee makes me think of early Saturday mornings before the rest of the CBD was awake, sitting on a bench in the relative cold waiting for it to be time for work.

It feels like 2013 should be full of memories that specific, that attuned to a certain place in my life, standing out among the 22 years’ worth of other memories I have. After all, 2013 was the year I took all the risks, and followed my dream: I moved out of home, I flew around the world, I embarked upon a job within the career path that I would ideally choose. And certainly the things I have done have created memories, recollections I will never forget, but at the same time the year has been lived at such  a constant, frantic pace that I’ve now been in America for over eight months and I can’t decide whether it feels like two weeks or three years.

The start of 2013 was one filled with anticipation and change. Whilst it hadn’t happened yet, I knew it was going to happen. Applications had been filled in and submitted. Then came the waiting game.

Throughout that, I worked two jobs, earning the most amount of money I’ve ever had in a bank account ever. Oddly, I thoroughly enjoyed the two jobs, too; working in a jewellers (and I thought I liked jewellery before then…) and as a waitress. It was difficult because it meant that I didn’t really get a ‘holiday’ after uni finished – but it was worth it, because I knew that every single dollar I earned was going to go towards me achieving perhaps the biggest thing I’d ever aimed for in my life.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to say that it was strange to think that it was actually happening. I still sometimes think I’m just dreaming.

The hardest part of that first part of the year was selling my horse. Due to my insecurities more or less convincing me that my Plans weren’t actually going to happen, I put off offering him for sale until the last possible minute. This resulted in a lot of stress, both emotional and financial; I did not end up selling him for the price that he was worth, simply because I didn’t have the time. However he did end up going to the perfect home; a girl that loved him and that wouldn’t push him beyond his limits. It was a bittersweet ending. That horse taught me so much, not the least when to accept a horse for what they can offer you and move on. He tried his heart out for me, even if he wasn’t perfectly suited to the life I wanted him to live. He was one of the special ones, not because he gave me rides at the highest level I’d ever ridden at (though he did); but because he convinced me not to give up on horses at a point in my life where I considered it.

Real confirmation of my leaving came in late January or early February, and from then on it was a constant race to organise myself. I packed up my entire life back home, putting most of it into boxes and then into my parents’ garage (I’m still not sure I’ll ever be able to get rid of some of that stuff… maybe one day when I mature! ;)). I researched and researched luggage and what would be best, weight limits on different airlines, airfares on different airlines, and finally made a decision and stuck with it. I went the more expensive suitcase with the much lighter-when-empty weight. Definitely a good decision! Although I didn’t pack many winter clothes (as I was flying in for an American summer), having to include a lot of horse stuff meant that weight and space limits were quickly used up.

I flew out on the 17th of April, landing in America (due to having to wait until my visa was confirmed to book a flight) in the evening of the 19th. (For those of you playing at home; what happened was that I flew the long way around the world, with a layover in Abu Dhabi, making the approximately 36 hour flight actually take approximately 36 hours. The advantage of this was that I experienced almost no jetlag – as I hadn’t technically lost a day. The disadvantage was, you know; 36 hour flight.) Saying goodbye to my family was one of the weirder experiences I’ve had. I think because I’d been so keen to leave home for so long, I wasn’t particularly emotional. With the technology we have these days, I knew I’d be able to stay in touch with them. And for me, I was embarking on an adventure, a real life, away from the small-minded town I’d grown up in and away from the painful memories. I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t care – I did – but at the same time, no tears were shed.

Arriving in America was nerve-racking, but I was quickly comforted when the first thing my new American family did was offer me a glass of wine. That definitely set the trend and I’ve really felt I fit in well with them, at the very least. The first competition I went to over here, about a week after I started work, Rolex 3DE was on and it was raining; we ended up in my Boss’s dad’s RV, watching Rolex on an iPhone and drinking wine and gin and tonics. I had to glance around to make sure my mother and aunty weren’t there. They would’ve fit right in!

So in some aspects I feel that I’ve fitted right in, over here in America. There’s definitely aspects where I don’t feel that way. Living on the farm, isolated from even nearby towns, with only certain workmates to deal with; my social life has suffered, and mentally that’s hit me hard on and off. The politics – those which you get in any workplace, it’s true, but see above re: isolation and lack of other social life – have been extremely hard for me to deal with. I’ve gotten to know myself better and to recognise the parts of me that I’d like to work on changing, and the parts I’d like to maintain and nurture, and why. Parts of this experience have been challenging, but I also think they’re largely the parts which have taught me the most.

And then there’s the horses. Oh, the horses.

I’ve certainly developed exponentially as a rider and a horse professional since coming over here. I’ve recognised a passion for groundwork that I didn’t realise existed within me. I’ve learned basic stable management and the day-to-day care of horses in a professional barn environment that you don’t get from just caring for your own horse on a private property. I’ve been privileged enough to ride horses trained up to the Prix St George level and horses literally claimed straight off a racetrack. I’ve developed enough of myself to feel although I could take a horse at almost any level of greenness and train them up to be comfortably competing at the lower levels. My upper-level work is still a work in progress, but that will come; I’m much more excited about my ability with the greenies. I’ve sat bucks that feel like you’re literally six feet above the ground and bailed off of a rearer. I’ve been thrown around on the end of a leadrope, the only thought going through my head being ‘if you let go of this horse your Boss is going to literally kill you’. I’ve been out at the stable til 9pm with a colic case. I’ve gotten to the point where three-legged lameness is less of a concern to me than is a slight niggle at the trot. I’ve rehabbed multiple horses and I’ve watched a particular horse with a particular amount of talent make his way from an injury to walking, to trotting, to cantering, to jumping. I’ve learnt so much about these animals and so much about the professional business involved with them.

And, insanely, I still want to be involved in that business.

That’s not a knowledge that I wake up and say to myself every day. Some days I drag myself out of bed at 6.35am and struggle to be out at the barn by 7am. Some days I don’t want to talk to anybody and I don’t want to touch a horse. Some days I have to wait five minutes before I can get on because if I got on feeling like I did, the ride would never be productive at all. It’s a knowledge that is more intrinsic, even innate. It’s a knowledge that springs to mind whenever I think about doing something else with my life. It’s a knowledge that appears with operatic solos and rainbows whenever I have a particularly good ride. And it’s a knowledge that creeps up on me when I walk out to the barn at 7.03am and flick the aisle lights on, and big grey heads blink sleepy eyes at me, and I smile.

After seven months – seven crazy months of learning how the barn runs, how to groom at big shows, how to deal with clients, how to ride – I planned and schemed for a week off. A week off to finally get into Washington DC (sadly a 40 minute trip from the barn, but no rest for the wicked) and perhaps elsewhere, depending on funds and timing and what my heart thought at that moment.

It’s a week that I’ll endeavour to always remember. Travelling by yourself can be intimidating, but for me it’s more exhilarating, and it increases the people you meet tenfold. I stayed in a hostel in DC and at a friend’s place in NYC – and I realised, speaking in the hostel to other travellers, just how much of a nomadic heart I have. I’m certainly not ready to settle. I haven’t found a place that calls to me and that I don’t want to leave. So far, all I’ve found is more places I want to explore, more people I want to meet, more experiences I want to have. Long-term, horses may not be the best business for doing that. But short-term, while I’m developing my resume and trying to find my niche, it’s perfect.

And even long-term, competing horses provides an opportunity to at least see other places – even if you’re surrounded by the same old people. I’ve travelled up and down the East Coast going to competitions. I’ve covered Virginia and Maryland, and been lucky enough to go to the prestigious 3* at Fair Hill – perhaps even luckier because the Boss was competing in the Young Horse, so I got to see more of the 3* competition than I might otherwise have. I’ve watched Boyd Martin, Buck and Bruce Davidson, Phillip Dutton, Sinead Halpin, Jan Byyny, Sharon White, and so many others over courses varying from Novice to 3*. I’ve been exposed to so much, more than I could ever have imagined when coming over here.

And who can forget William Fox-Pitt teaching a clinic at my barn? Or Karen O’Connor randomly walking down the aisle one day?

2013 was jam-packed, full of experiences, so many that I’m sure I’m missing some key ones. And what does that mean for 2014?

For me, it’s a continuation of what began in 2013. 2014 starts with a trip to Florida – seeing more of the sights America has to offer, another culture-within-a-culture, another barn albeit with the same people. We return to Virginia in mid-February, and as the weather warms the competitions start to heat up. I may be able to hit a few of the early Spring events, depending on what the horses (and riders) are doing.

Then comes April, and the end of my American working visa. I have thirty days to travel before my visa officially expires – and I’m going to make the most of those thirty days. So far I’m throwing around names like Rolex 3DE, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas. Realistically (read: financially) I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be able to do. Chicago will happen, regardless of all else. And I’m sure I’ll make the most of whatever I can.

Come the end of May, and I’ll be heading to Europe. Any luck I will have a job lined up there… there’s a few options on the horizon already, and I think they will only increase as I start to really knuckle down and make it happen. I’m not yet sure whether it will be an eventing barn, or a dressage barn, a young horse barn or a showjumping barn. I’m not yet sure what will be best to benefit my career or how I would make it work. I’m not yet sure even which country to really start looking at, or how the visas work.

So 2014 will bring a lot more of that research I did in 2012, as well.

The idea of packing to leave for Florida scares me, as it seems like a dry-run for packing to leave in April/May. It’s going to be difficult to pack my life away, to choose what to bring and what to leave. To leave the place that I’ve made my own and strike out again. I know I’ll be able to do it; but to say I’ll do it without fear would be a lie.

I’m not yet sure when I will get back to Australia to see my family. June 2016 is my deadline; I have to make it back then. What happens before then is up to fate, and (primarily, as ever) finances.

After I (*fingers crossed*) land and start a job in Europe, who knows what 2014 will bring. There will still be seven months left in the year and I’m sure they will bring so many new faces and experiences that I’ll have the same trouble this time next year, remembering everybody and everything that made the year unforgettable but still somehow unfathomable.

People have a tendency at this time of year to make resolutions. I rarely do, and even if the fancy strikes me I’m one of those people to have forgotten it by mid-February. And, y’know, I could do all of the typical ones; moving to America saw me gain 10 kilos (!). I’m probably drinking too much. I could eat healthier, and probably less. I could move more. But, the thing is, saying I’m going to start doing that tomorrow seems ridiculous. I will; I know I’ll work on getting healthier, physically and mentally, at some point next year. It kind of has to happen, and I know that. Making a resolution about it just seems hackneyed, to me.

I prefer goals, to resolutions. And I have small, and medium, and even some large goals which I’m working towards. But as far as yearlong goals go, I’m kind of forced into achieving them:

  • Find a job in Europe (inc. research visas etc)
  • Experience as much of America as I can before leaving
  • Ride as many horses as I can, both before I leave America and while I’m in Europe
  • Be proactive in working on my mental and physical health

So then, 2014. It will be another year of change and another year of travel. Another year for me to work on finding myself and what and where I want to be. A full twelve months without seeing my family (in all probability). Another year where I have to forge my own support network in the place I currently find myself.

Another year full of opportunities, another year full of challenges.

And all I can say; bring it on.

I Am Thankful For… (obligatory Thanksgiving post)

My parents, without whose support I would never have been able to do all that I have.

My American ‘family’, for doing everything in their power to make me feel like I have a full support base over here as well.

The horses that I’ve met over here, specifically (although I can’t pick favourites!) Brady and Gyles; Brady for letting me compete at a higher level and teaching me how to ride a trained horse, and Gyles for reaffirming my love and passion for ex-racehorses.

Having the opportunity to work outside, instead of in a cubicle, or even just a building. Seeing nature firsthand every day. Watching the seasons change.

Being able to have a job that encapsulates my passion.

Having taught myself to cook before I came over here. And having a housemate who doesn’t mind that I don’t do the dishes as often as I should.

The internet and other means of communication. I’m not sure I could’ve lasted this well for this long if I wasn’t able to contact my family, especially my mum, as easily as I can. That definitely makes it easier!

Of course, I’m thankful for my health, my happiness, my freedom. The fact that I made the decision to come over here and I could.

My inner strength, something that I didn’t really believe I had until it was tested. Now I know it’s there and it’s growing with every challenge.

There are many other things I’m thankful for. But these probably best encapsulate the things that keep me going and that I’m grateful for every day. Life is not without challenges; but somehow, I’m getting through. And I’m happy.

I’m Not Dead

I so want to write more on here.

Inspirational things. Things about my day. The differences and similarities I notice. Records of things that happen. Ordinary things, extraordinary things. My opinions on eventing and the current news and what’s making headlines. A comment on the way the bare trees stretch skeletally into the frozen sky. Comments on politics, comments on the weather.

It’s just so hard, to find the time, and the motivation. If I have the time, I just want to sleep, or read, or go grocery shopping. If I have the motivation – like now – I simply don’t have the time. I’m writing this in my twenty-minute lunch break. It’s probably going to make me late.

I think there’s a balance to be found. I think it’s probably a writing thing; make the time, every day. Make it a priority.

I’m going to try. Even if I just start things and draft them and take three weeks to finish them.

I so want to write more on here. So I will.

A Day in the Life of…

I had a good day today. Not because I did anything overly unusual or special; perhaps, I think, because I didn’t, and I still enjoyed it.

The start wasn’t promising. My alarm went off at six and my first instinct was to hurl it across the room, curl up tighter in my blankets and go back to sleep. Then the first snooze went off… and the second… I haven’t had a real sleep-in in over a week because my last day off was at Fair Hill, so every morning it’s getting harder to drag myself out of bed.

I also need to go grocery shopping and buy coffee; I think that contributing to my lacklustre morning motivation.

Once I managed to get up I breakfasted, checked the goings-on of the people I know on the other side of the world, and then walked outside.

I promptly walked back inside to get another jacket. Winter is coming! (Today’s temperature topped out at 54F (12C) and the low is 33F (0.5C).)

The morning routine is familiar to me by now. The horses have just swapped over to day turnout, so I go out in the relative darkness of 7am, open the barn doors a little and flick on the lights. Heads poke over their stalls, blinking in the sudden light, and every now and again there’s a little whinny of welcome.

First off I hay all of the horses, going up into the loft in the Main Barn and taking flake-by-flake from the hay stall we have set up in Aisle 1. I also do a general check to make sure that the horses are all alive; so far, so good!

Then I start feeding out. Now that the weather has cooled down and the flies have died off, we pre-make the morning feeds the evening before (we used to do it right before we fed, because the flies were so bad we were worried about contamination). So I pull out the Main Barn horses’ feed buckets, soak the ones that need it (a high percentage of the horses here, which I think is a good thing) and start to feed. We used to have major issues with Gyles attacking the horses on either side of him but a few firm words has put him mostly the on the right track. Generally I just have to deal with the constant neighing, which wouldn’t be so bad if all horses had attractive voices, but when you have to listen to a guttural, constant, demanding neigh all morning it really wears thin fast.

CW normally turns up while I’m feeding, so sometimes she’ll do Aisle 1 while I’m doing Main Barn and VIP. Then I’ve been in the habit of taking the Gator and feeding the field board horses; we have seven at the moment, which has got to be an extreme high! I try to remember to check if they all have their shoes on, and for any obvious wounds or discomfort etc. Been lucky with this so far too!

Now it’s coming into winter, after feeding is blanketing. I still don’t have a full handle on this – what sort of rugs are needed for what sort of weather, which owners prefer more or less rugs, which weather forecast we should trust (!). But I’m learning steadily, and OS’s idea of putting up a chart with temperatures and corresponding blankets is a life-saver; if all else fails, I just defer to that for all of them.

Today was made easier because CW did most of the blanketing while I finished up the feeds. Then we turned out, which was slightly easier today than yesterday, I think thanks to the yoga I did last night; the muscles I killed from running had loosened up a little! I was still a bit slower than usual though. Fortunately I didn’t have any incidents turning out; I’ve been having a bad run with horses tearing away and just generally being obnoxious. In result I think I’ve been a bit more ‘switched-on’ the last couple of days which has helped as well!

The Boss is away helping coach the Classic Format 3-Day at Waredaca, so I’ve been assigned the pleasure of working Team Grey. I actually love it when she goes away and leaves me here, only because I get to work all of her awesome horses!

I decided to start with the hacks, and Gyles went first. He was good, better than he has been the past, and we did 40min on the hills and the flat. It was chilly enough that I had two jackets on, as I’ve quickly realised that just walking a horse on a hack doesn’t really do much to warm you up, so you’ve got to be dressed for the occasion. I am lucky enough to be at this facility, though; even walking a horse for forty minutes doesn’t get boring, the scenery is so spectacular. It’s particularly stunning at this time of year, with all the fall colours coming through; sometimes I can’t help but think it looks like a painting. We don’t get this sort of colour change in the trees back home; or maybe there just aren’t enough deciduous trees for me to notice it! Either way, it’s amazing to see here, and I’ve really got to find some time to take my camera out and capture it.

Calib was next. I switched over the tack in a quick changeover (one of the advantages of the cold weather is not having to hose each horse off after every ride; especially when they’re just hacking, a quick brush over normally does the trick!) and was soon out at it again. I must admit that if I’d had to do another really long hack I might’ve got impatient with the scenery, especially as Calib was jogging like it was his job (I think the longest I got of walk was about fifteen strides); but fortunately he’s just in light work this week so I only did twenty minutes.

Then it was time for Cody, ever the exciting one. Due to the renovations of our indoor, we’ve been forced to start riding him outside, and luckily it hasn’t been quite as exciting as one may have predicted. Hardly any caprioles at all! (I swear this horse is training himself to join the Spanish Riding School; he has a mean levade.) Still, we take precautionary measures, including lunging him and doing lots of transitions before we get on.

He was great on the lunge, but a little more ‘looky’ than he has been the past few days, so I made sure to do lots of transitions (the sort of thing that gets him excited if he’s that way inclined). He managed to keep it together through the ten minutes of lunging, so I closed the arena gates and braved the saddle.

He was actually perfectly behaved. His spooks were more excuses to refuse to bend right (his more difficult direction), so I just worked on getting him to concentrate and bend even if he didn’t want to, and he settled nicely. This horse has the most astonishing gaits I’ve ever sat on. His trot is like floating – I could sit to it for hours – and his canter is just incredible. He is quite simply an incredible horse, and I’m honoured to be trusted enough to ride him. So, all too soon, I brought him back to a walk, dismounted and walked him back up to the barn.

The only incident we had there was when a heron took off from where it had been standing behind a bush, making Cody jump sideways. That was awesome behaviour for him – normally he jumps straight up – and he settled right away after, so it wasn’t a big deal. Those herons, however, have it out for me. Twice Calib’s nearly gotten me off when he’s spun away from them because he didn’t see them before they suddenly take off, flapping their giant wings. Gyles has nearly killed me as well, I think there’s at least one other horse, and then Cody today. I swear they’re haunting me.

I brushed Cody off, let the Boss know how perfect her horses were (:D) and then pulled Brady out of the paddock.

When CW asked how my ride was, I summed it up as, “Brady was a wanker, and I forgot how to ride”, and I still stand by that assessment. -.-

Basically I got some good work out of him, but he was in a bad mood and my riding deteriorated as I got a little frustrated. In the end I just worked on some of the movements for our test on Saturday, got some reasonably nice work out of him and quit.

It’s annoying, because Brady and I either have really nice, harmonious rides on the flat, or it feels like we’re in each others’ way and neither of us can do anything right. But then I do know that that’s how it goes, so I’ve put today’s ride behind me and I’m looking forward to our flat session on Friday being much better.

By then it was nearly one o’clock and, I figured, time for some well-deserved lunch. CW kindly offered to grab something on her way back from getting supplies in town, so while she was out I hayed all the stalls, ready for the horses to come in to, and generally tidied the aisles. Then we sat down for some food in the nicely heated office.

I wiped off all of the Boss’s tack and hung it neatly, and then went to start making afternoon feed while CW starting bringing the horses in.

I enjoy making up feed. It’s formulaic, which means it’s relaxing, and I do it so often that it doesn’t take too much concentration. There’s something between the smell and the sound and the rhythm of it that makes it enjoyable. Call me crazy.

The horses were mostly in moods for turn-in, though. I couldn’t help but literally laugh out loud when Bay Chance – an aging trail horse who has questionable conformation but a generally good heart – refused to be caught. CW and Juan were both standing in the middle of the paddock as he cantered circles around them when I walked up. Then the Three Stooges – Chestnut Chance, Fred and Luca – got their blood up and were tricky as well. Again, because they’re not normally like that, I couldn’t help but laugh. It felt good, actually; to truly laugh at something I found amusing. Feels like it’s been too long.

Finally all of the horses were caught and brought in, and it was time for the morning routine again; soak, feed out, while CW worked on blanketing the horses for the night.

We timed it pretty well, so that we both finished at around the same time. Then it was time for a general tidy, and that was pretty much the barn work done! I had an in-hand session with a client scheduled for the late afternoon, so I hung around and made up the morning feeds, tidied the office (including wiping down all of the shelves and awards; no easy feat!) and sort of chilled for a little bit.

That time of day is probably my favourite. The horses are all tucked up in bed, most of the clients have gone home, and it’s quiet. You can hear the horses munching on hay but that’s the only sound, the bustle of the rest of the workers gone for the day. The end of the work day is near and it’s nearly time to go inside to warmth and relaxation. It’s a lovely feeling after a productive day.

The session ended successfully, with the little horse in question taking a little while to understand what we were requesting of him, but he picked it up easily enough and was a little rock star by the end. The positivity of it tipped off a good day; now I’m at home, in the warmth, waiting for my dinner to heat up and contemplating the joys of going out in 40F later on to do nightchecks.

Still, things could definitely be worse.

Remember: What you take for granted, someone else is praying for.

Anger (and a segue into self pity)

Anger is an emotion I don’t deal with often. Sure, I get annoyed. I get frustrated. I say I’m pissed off or angry or how something makes me so damn angry.

But that’s not true anger.

True anger is feeling my muscles tremble as though they’re spasming. True anger is biting the onside of my lip to try and redirect the violent tendencies towards myself. True anger is needing to run or turn to other coping mechanisms to make it through that initial burst.

In a sense, I’m lucky I’m not an overly confrontational person. If I were, this albeit relatively rare true anger could be a true problem. Fortunately I’m an internalizer. It doesn’t bode well for my mental health as such, but at least I’m less like to be arrested or outright hated.

With some, mostly healthy coping mechanisms I’ve gotten over the original shock of it. I’ve stopped shaking. My jaw is relaxing. I can turn my mind to other things.

But my god, I haven’t been that angry since… I can’t even remember when. The last time I remember feeling similarly was anxiety linked. I’m fairly sure the last anger linked one was involved with DJ (sorry love, we both know it’s probably true).

The hard part is being so disconnected to my true friends, the ones that don’t stab me in the back. Technology is amazing but it’s not the same as picking up a phone or making a brief drive to chat to someone who says all the right things.

And then, we delve deeper into the source of the anger and my insecurity surfaces. Every trigger for this true anger is linked to the insecurity I feel. That I don’t fit in. That they don’t truly like me. That I don’t know how to behave so that they would. The pathetic feeling of trying to be super nice and totally inoffensive so that I may be actually accepted into these circles that have been more or less exclusive for years. The self-loathing that follows because I’m whinging about not being accepted and it could be seen that I’m not making an effort, when really I’m doing everything I know how and all that seems to happen is I act naturally how I am and no one seems to like it.

This has turned into an essay on self-pity, brought to you by sleeping pills.

It just seems that I want simple things – friends, people to like me for who I am, being able to fit in without changing or without having to have been part of “where it all started” – but they’re ultimately, absolutely out of my reach.

And it feels like they will be forever.

#pityparty #tobedeleted

366 Days

“first, you think the worst is a broken heart

what’s gonna kill you is the second part

and the third, is when your world splits down the middle

fourth, you’re gonna think that you’ve fixed yourself

fifth, you see them out with someone else

and the sixth, is when you admit you may’ve fucked up a little”

Yesterday, it was twelve months since DJ and I broke up.

The day passed without notice. It was a normal day, the same as any other Monday for the last few weeks. My day off. I cooked, and I cleaned. I’m sick, struggling with a cold, so I was miserable and read for a few hours. Slept for a few hours. Glanced outside, didn’t see anyone to socialise with, read for a while longer and went to bed.

Oddly, the date didn’t cross my mind.

I probably had my freak out a couple of weeks ago. A night, alone, again, in my bed. Thoughts drifting back to a happier time. Remembering all the things I did wrong. All of the things that might’ve gone right. Thinking all of my worst nightmares, about what happened afterwards, about what’s happening now (the aching pain and dread and terror of not knowing) and then feeling that same emotion, feeling, whatever…

I still like to think of being in a relationship sometimes. Having someone there for you. All the good things that I enjoyed. All the things I could do better now I know myself and know relationships better. The fact that I know more about what I want from another person, and that that should help my judgement when push comes to shove and I’m deciding if I want to commit.

And then I remember the weeks of crying. Screaming “I JUST WANT TO DIE” over the kitchen table at my helpless mother, over and over again. Reading and reading and watching and watching just to remove myself completely from the real world.

(Slowly coming out again, emerging from my shell, step by small step. A cousin’s party, drinks at a friend’s house.

A night out, seeing him again. Twenty steps back, one step forward.

Working. Making friends. Reconnecting.

Three hours one night, screaming and sobbing and yelling at him. Steps back, step forward.

Twenty minute long voicemails left in the darkness of a drunken night.

Talking, not talking, talking again. Pain, heartache, more pain, more tears, more self-hatred. Hopelessness. Helplessness. Insomnia.)

And I’m not sure I could deal with that again.

I’m scarred, so deeply it scares me. People say that it’ll just take another relationship for me to totally get over my first one; but to be honest, I’m absolutely petrified of that next relationship, because I’m honestly not sure I’d make it through another break up.

But then…

Yesterday passed without incident. I’m not even sure what made me think of it today; a random glance at the date, perhaps. No, more than that; looking at the date multiple times, writing it down, realising that the internet cap lifts tomorrow… all these thoughts and then finally a gentle tug that made me go, “oh, the 23rd…”

Twelve months ago I wouldn’t have believed I’d still be here today.

Six months ago I wouldn’t have believed I could go a day without thinking of him.

One month ago I wouldn’t have believed that I could get past that day without realising what day it was.

You are braver than you believe, smarter than you think, stronger than you seem.

So many things have changed in these twelve months. Not the least my thought processes.

I still feel sick thinking of how I felt in those immediate months after the break up. I still wish I could talk to him and find out what he’s doing without plunging into a deep well of darkness. I’m still not sure I could handle the raw pain of breaking up with someone again.

But… I’m okay.

So maybe I would be able to.

“I used to dream about

the life I’m living now

I know that there’s no doubt;

I made it

I made it.”

Last Summer

Last Summer

The smell of a little cafe where the barista knows your order (“capp, no sugar?”)

Driving to work on a Saturday morning through the deserted streets

Driving home from a different work at midnight on a Tuesday; the streets just as deserted

 Screaming across the kitchen table at your helpless mother how much I fucking hate my life!

Crying yourself not to sleep, but to anxious, sickening wakefulness

Being greeted with a genuine ‘good morning!’ as you walk into work

Going for a job interview when all you want to do is curl up in bed and never venture into the real world again

Feeling physically sick just seeing a place you used to go together

Debating the value of leaving – for real

Reigniting a dormant passion

Realising that some jobs you never expected to take can not only teach you valuable things, but also be thoroughly enjoyable

Walking into work and everybody saying ‘oh my god, what’s wrong?’ (it’s written all over your face)

Getting so drunk the night becomes a blur

Staying in other people’s beds; waking up with the knowledge that that won’t fix it and now you merely hate yourself

Waking up from nightmares not sure whether they were real or not, whether you’d prefer for them to be or not

Rekindling old friendships

Discovering a liking for children, and a sure-fire way of interacting with them

Broadening friendship groups (and then narrowing them again, by choice or default)

Failing

Succeeding

Sobbing through a throat raw from screaming that you can’t deal with this anymore, that you have to see a doctor or a professional or anybody

The realisation that that was probably one of the best decisions you’ve ever made

Seeing him out without you and breaking down completely all over again

And again

…and again

Realising that despite all the help and all the progress that you can’t make a life here, not now

Cutting off contact, re-establishing it and then cutting it off again

Riding your horse in the river on a warm summer’s day, laughing genuinely for the first time in a long while as he paws water high enough that it splashes your face

Wrapping your hands around a warm coffee brewed by your favourite barista as you sit outside and wait for it to be time to go to work

Sipping the same type of coffee as you tell people that you’re leaving

Letting old mentors know that you’re pursuing your dream

The first Christmas without him – painful, raw, agonising

Running to mum’s arms on Christmas Eve when the tears just won’t stop

A taboo relationship with a convenient person that makes you realise that sometimes affection springs out of the most unlikely of places

The disagreement with your best friend; the first actually serious one you’ve had

Writing, re-writing, emailing, researching, applying, paying, researching some more

Taking the leap even though you’re not sure where it’ll take you and even if it’s more flight than adventure at that moment

Making the most of the beach while you can

Reading updates for uni and realising that you don’t even need to worry about that

Feeling excited, and then disenchanted, and then excited all over again

Choosing a date

Booking a flight

Saying goodbye

Arriving…

For a brand new summer on the other side of the world.

For When I Forget

This is my backyard.

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This is sunrise…

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…and sunset

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This is the (fairly) local winery

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This is the good weather…

What else can I say?

… and the bad

About five minutes before I took these photos I watched the clouds literally race across the sky above our apartment... it was like literally watching a storm roll in. Absolutely incredible.

This is one of the Real Life Pokemon I’ve discovered

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This is the face I get to see every day

Cody Modey! :D I love this horse...

I really, really,

These are the amazing people I get to spend so much time with

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This is the face that neighs every time I go to his paddock

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This is a typical photo

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This is a normal Saturday night

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This is two and a bit hours away

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This is my home

view

and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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