First Week Down! An Interesting Start and a New Addition…..

Well, we are one week down into 2021. If you’re in the U.S., by now you’ve gotten your stimulus money hopefully.

Our New Year did not totally go exactly as planned (not that we had much of a plan, but still.. unexpected things arise!). We started out day 1 with taking down our Christmas decorations, which subsequently gets glitter and flocking alllllll over the place since we have a white flocked tree and some white flocked garland.

So, of course I go to vacuum. (I’m a rather obsessive vacuumer anyway…) …. aaaaaannnddddd the vacuum broke. My husband bought a Dyson cordless in 2017 and it has been having battery charging issues for about 3 months. We’ve managed to make it just keep going, until it couldn’t go anymore. Of course on the day the tree comes down.

So, we did have to buy a new vacuum, and we did choose another Dyson.

We also had some unexpected conversation turn into an unexpected reality.

My husband has not actually owned an animal since he was a kid and his parents had a dog. He’s allergic enough to both dogs and cats that after just a few hours of exposure, he’s having some definite trouble. He’s even like that at the barn with enough exposure to hay or horse dirt.

Me on the other hand….. I have a history of having too many animals and not by choice. If you’ve read anything on my blog about my past marriage, you maybe read any number of posts about the animals.

I love animals. I love them. I always have. (Thankfully, I have no allergies). My love of animals turned into a desire to get into the veterinary field and hit the equestrian scene hard, because of course, I loved horses ever since I was 5 and read Black Beauty.

However, my love of animals does not translate into wanting to own every single animal in the entire world. And me…. ME… of all people, hit a point in my life years ago where I said NO MORE. I do not want any more animals in the house, and when the horses are gone I will (regretfully) not be getting another.

I went from loving all animals, to really wanting to be absolutely done with them.

How did that happen, you might ask? What might turn a person away from wanting to have that which she loves?

See past entries about my abusive ex husband. Nevermind, I’ll sum up. The short short short version of a 12 year history of hell was that I had an ex husband (also mildly allergic to cats and dogs) who insisted on bringing every single animal ever into our home. (Our incredibly tiny home).

He also wanted a horse – then a 2nd one – to “share in my passion with me”. Over the course of 11 1/2 years, there was a simultaneous total of: 4 horses, 1 dog, 5 cats, 3 fish tanks, 1 salamander, 1 bearded dragon, 2 lovebirds, 1 parrot, and crickets for said bearded dragon, and 3 ferrets. Throughout our years, we also had a chinchilla, a 4th ferret, a tarantula, a salt water fish tank, and mice (not like wild ones… actual pet mice).

Did I also mention that for more than 60% of our entire marriage, my ex husband refused to work, had no income, and refused to care for the animals. I would always fight against bringing a new one home, and that meant it was definitely coming home. I had no way out of it, and often, I was forced by harassment, to name the animal, thus making it “mine” because clearly I wanted it since I named it, and now it was my responsibility.

All that inside a cramped up mobile home. (Long story, but yes, I lived in a mobile home). I did not want a dog. I argued, fought, begged, and pleaded not to get one. We had one inside of a week after his previous dog died. That trend went on and on until the house had more animals in it than sitting space. My morning routine consisted of (quietly- so I dared not wake up the ex while he was sleeping) – get up, take the dog out, feed the ferrets/clean litter, feed the bearded, then the crickets needed feed too. Feed the cats, and clean the litter and feed the salamander and then feed the dog, that I probably forgot I had outside in the first place so she was waiting to come back in.

And whenever there was a vet visit or emergency, or just routine vaccines, there was no money to pay for it since it was only my paltry income, so it went on the credit card. And every animal was kept annually up to date on vaccines, microchips, medical care. You name it.

When I finally left and got free, I only had the horses to care for. I had a 1 bedroom apartment I could barely afford, and the horses cost almost as much as my rent. I could not afford a cat even if I wanted one, and I became so used to not having an animal in the house that I said never again.

That was in 2015.

Thankfully, my husband now has had absolute 0 interest in owning a horse, but he has expressed a little curiosity about riding, so I do plan to try to get him on a horse in the spring when the weather is nicer.

However, he has expressed a bit of a desire (more than once over the years) to have a rabbit. Dogs and cats are out (mixed blessings, since while I do not particularly want a dog, I would love to have a pair of Siamese kittens), and after running through pros and cons of various animals, it seemed like a rabbit was the best choice.

So, apparently sometime around Christmas, I (must have been half asleep) started showing my husband videos of bunnies after he mentioned them again. We talked about it for a while, and the next thing we know, by the beginning of the New Year, we were placing a large order with Chewy for supplies, and had found a bunny.

Meet Fizzgig.

She is a Lionhead rabbit, just about 10 weeks old, and we brought her home Wednesday 1/6/2021.

For all the animals I’ve had in my life, including as a child with cats, mice, guinea pigs… 2 house pets I’ve never owned are rats or rabbits. So this is actually a first for me as well as my husband was hasn’t had a pet in 30 years.

There’s going to be hay in the house, and hair all around once she’s an adult, but once again, we have a house pet in our lives. (Hey, at least we have a new vacuum cleaner too!)

She currently lives in about 1/2 our kitchen. We also bought her a huge (absolutely massive) cage for the times we do need to contain her further. Eventually we will give her more and more access to the house as she grows and we continue to rabbit proof everything. She’s getting used to us, and we are getting used to her.

She’s a little skittish now, but she’s had lots of changes in a short period of time. In a few months she will get spayed, but for now, she is just chilling and enjoying her little bunny paradise. She’s been a pleasure to have in the house and it is admittedly nice to have a pet again.

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Welcome to 2021 — New Year, New Goals

Each year, instead of a list of “resolutions”, I prefer to put out a list of goals. I usually try to list goals that I can actually accomplish within the course of that year.

Of course those goals almost always include “weight loss” … let’s face it.. I’m not 20 anymore. I will be 42 in July. I probably won’t look like I did when I was college-age again, but that does not mean I can’t be healthy, active, fit, and aware of how I handle my body. I always try to exercise as much as I can, which in the summer means I will hike 4-6 days a week for at least 3 miles, and I do Yoga, and I have been working at the barn on weekend mornings as well, feeding and barn chores for 17 horses and 8 goats. Moving hay bales around is not exactly easy work.

To that end, my goals for exercise is to simply continue what I’m doing, despite having tremendous back pain, hemangiomas through my spine, 3 bulging discs, sciatic nerve pain, a torn meniscus and cartilage damage in my right knee, and my past surgery on my thigh! So many issues, but I simply do not want them to stop me from doing anything. Ever.

So, here are my goals for 2021 (no particular order). Hopefully we will see how well I’ve done around mid-year.

* Stay Healthy! Covid 19 is still wreacking havoc on everyone, and while I’m eager to get “back to normal” life, I also realize that “normal” might take a different shape for many of us.

*Hike more. There are a few parks around the midwest I have not been to and I would like to visit for day trips. I want to hike more and do more bird photography in 2021.

*Photograph a Pileated Woodpecker. A bird that you might only see once in your life is called a “lifer bird” For me, the Pileated Woodpecker is that bird. I don’t live in an area where they are very present, so part of my hiking goals this year include getting to parks in areas that are part of their habitat zone and hopefully find one.

*Attend DragonCon 2021. This one isn’t really a “goal” since the whole thing is booked, paid for, and done. I just *hope* it actually happens this year and doesn’t end up cancelled like it was in 2020 due to Covid.

*Complete 2 new costumes for 2021 convention season. We built my husband a very awesome looking John Wick for conventions, and I have plans to make a character to go with his – our first couple’s costume. I have half of it already, just need to put the rest together. In addition, we have another couple’s costume to do, which he can use most of his John Wick suit for, while I need to completely make everything for my character. So I’ve got some costume building to do before conventions do actually get started again in 2021.

*JAMAICA!!!! Also not a goal – it’s paid for. We are going to celebrate our 2nd anniversary at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and we can’t wait! Again – hoping this happens with Covid restrictions and all.

*Go Skydiving. I wanted to do it with a friend to celebrate my freedom from my past marriage, but we just never did. This year, my husband and I are hoping to put together a group of willing friends and do a group skydive for my birthday in July.

*Plan a 2022 Vacation. We definitely plan our trips a good solid 18 months out, and that gives us time to make payments ahead of time and plan for it. Right now, nothing is off the table and we’ve tossed around ideas like a 7 day Disney Orlando trip to an Alaska Cruise.

It’s never too soon to check off items on that bucket list – because you don’t know what will happen or how much time you have, or when a random virus could shut everything down… so do it if you can! I lost a huge chunk of my life without being able to travel, or afford too much, and now with the combined efforts of my husband and I – and enough time to make payments – big trips that were once impossible for both of us, are definitely a real possibility. We have quite the bucket list, which include Egypt, Alaska, Las Vegas. And we add things on that we never thought of before (like Jamaica.) So who knows what’s in store for us in 2022.

I think that sums up my hopes and goals for 2021. What about you? Have any good goals you want to accomplish, I’d love to hear about them!

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It’s a Wrap!

2020 has only hours left to go.

We will soon welcome 2021, and if you’re in the U.S., you’re probably looking forward to getting some stimulus money, be it $600 or $2000.

Of course, the latter would be wonderful, but I will be happy with whatever I can get! LOL!

It’s coming up on the end of a decade, and amazingly, it’s been since 2010 that I started this blog about nothing but life and living life.

I have been looking back at some posts from the early years, and the memories and struggles and painful emotions it brings up really shake me up sometimes. Then, I look back at the (much fewer) blog posts from 2016 on, after meeting my husband and the emotions are happy and fulfilled, but not without their own hardships (like losing 3 of my 4 horses in 2 years).

I really can’t believe how much life changes in a decade. I can’t even begin to imagine where my life will take me in the next decade.

A quick look back at some major life changing events since I started this blog in 2010:
2010: I bought Chewbacca
2011: I was diagnosed with Cancer
2012-2014: I continued to struggle with the abusive marriage I was in
2015: Chewbacca retired and I left my abuser
2016: I was legally divorced, finally got back to my first sci-fi cons, and met my now husband
2017: I moved in with my (then boyfriend)
2018: Started a new job and the very next day put down both Luke and Chewbacca, got engaged later in the year on our first ever Bahamas Cruise
2019: Got married in Key West!!!
2020: Corona. What more can I possibly say? Corona. My ex husband died (not Corona related)- Also euthanized Dixie, leaving me with 1 horse. Grateful every day for remaining sarcoma free.

Part of my annual New Year’s tradition is to set goals for each year, moreso than resolutions. A whole post on that will be coming. But here is something I would like to do since this is the first time I’ll be starting a new decade….

What do I think will happen in the next 10 years? LOL!! It’s impossible to predict. Who can ever know? I always think about being in school and being questioned “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
I never had an answer then, and my teachers/guidance counselors thought me a slacker with no drive or direction in life. But the truth was, I just simply did not know where I wanted to be in 5 years.

I can tell you that in 2010, I never imagined in 5 years I would have experienced all the things I experienced between 2010 and 2015. Never. And when I was in high school, not one single thing that I might have wanted after graduation came to fruition in the 5 years (or any years) after.

So, I can only say for the next decade, I just hope and pray for the best for my husband and myself.

Travels in 2021 will include DragonCon and Jamaica. I’d also like to go skydiving in 2021.

I’m hoping 2022 might include Disney.

I hope to purchase a new(ish) car in a few years (like around 2023).

I hope to be debt free (after what will be close to 15 years of working on it – by 2025). Debt Free. I left my ex with nearly $35,000 in credit card debt, so paying it off has been a long, patiently impatient effort, but I do see the end, finally.

I would like to revisit DragonCon around 2026 as well. Every 5 years or so going wouldn’t be so bad. As much as I would love to go every year, I also want to travel elsewhere in this world!

I hope my husband and I can travel to Egypt by the time we are around 50 (so, looking at around 2028 ish for that.

Other travel hopes include: Everglades, maybe a cruise or a trip to Europe with my Dad, and I hope to get to Alaska as well.

I also hope for good fortune, good health, and good travels for us in the next decade.

I of course, can’t realize the positive without the negatives. I know I will most likely have Jesse in 10 more years. He’s pushing 24 and while it isn’t unheard of that he might make it to 34, he won’t live forever. So I can reasonably predict in the next 10 years I will be totally horseless (see debt above, lol!). I do expect to retire him fully from driving by the end of 2021. Maybe 2022 if he still has spunk.

I don’t want to think about all the other possible changes that can come up in the next decade. I just look forward to ending 2020, getting some stimulus money, and hoping 2021 starts to see some normal life activities again!

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Horse Experiences… Good Or Bad….

I feel like I don’t blog enough about horses, which is ironic considering the main reason I started this blog (10 years ago!!!!!!) was for talking about horses (usually my own).

I am pretty much out of the horse scene anymore, especially showing and all that. I haven’t taught riding lessons in 15 years, and I only teach 1 person to drive right now.

But I still do like to connect, chat, and (virtually) enjoy the horse world. Some recent chatting I’ve seen on FB groups has brought me up on this reflection.

Good or bad horse experiences.

This particular conversation spawned from a person who “rescued” a kill lot horse and then complained repeatedly about how he had many issues from spooking to being pushy and rearing and was not catchable… the list goes on an on.

You can’t realistically expect to buy a horse from a kill lot and have it be a perfect horse. Especially if you’re a beginner. It can happen, sure… but 99.99% of the time it does not, and most likely the horse is there for a reason.

This type of beginner buying situation, and my love of equine photography, spurred me to compose a fully photographed horse-buying 101 book covering everything from red flags to avoid to understanding why and how you should assess your own skills in picking a horse, a boarding barn, a trainer… all of it.

I had it available for free as an ebook for a while, but the thing I most discovered was that most people do not prefer to read up on the subject or learn pre-emptively. They prefer to jump in and make those (potentially dangerous) mistakes.

Heck, I did too – if I didn’t, I probably would not have much of a book to have written. I wrote 2 horse books (one a fiction story), 2 large pieces of fan work, this blog.. I guess I just like to write. Don’t necessarily expect people to read, but it’s nice when I do hear some feedback.

So anyway.. what good or bad buying experiences do YOU have? Did you buy a horse sight unseen? From a kill lot/auction? Did you bring one home and it turned into a disaster? Did you buy a scraggly looking neglect case and have it become the brightest shining star in your barn?

I’d love to know!

I’ll share mine… so many bad ones (good learning lessons!!!!) I have purchased or leased many horses over the last 20 years. Most of them were exactly what I expected them to be but they all had their own personality quirks. Some of them were truly exceptional standouts into the mistakes I’ve made in over-estimating my riding/driving skills (it’s true – I was never half as good as I thought I was)… and some were phenomenal standouts of amazingness.

Starship Shocker (TB 1998). Mistake #1. I bought him while I owned Lickety Split. Lickety was an amazing horse who not only took care of me, but liked me (important when it comes to a 1,000# animal), and he gave me such confidence that I was at a particular high in my life at this point.

I had been riding vigorously at this point- anything and everything I could get on. I had only been consistently riding for about 4 years, but I had probably ridden close to 60 horses in that time, and with Lickety, I was jumping over 3′ fairly consistently.

Lickety however, (in my assessment), was not going to be able to progress higher than 3′. It was a struggle for him (well… let’s be honest- it was a struggle for me). So I decided I needed a younger, athletic horse that I could bring along.

Cue in Starship – a 4 year old Florida bred TB with a failed racing record and broken sinus bones (probably from rearing into the starting gate). He ended up in New Jersey and I took him home after a brief trial ride that I survived.

Starship was OK… but he was way beyond my abilities. He was not terribly spooky, and I was working with not 1, but 2 trainers, regularly (like 3 times a week….), so what could go wrong?

Basically everything. No matter your level or experience, if you buy a horse that is not in line with your skills, things are going to wrong. Terribly wrong.

Starship would bolt like crazy, I was dragged behind him with my foot in the stirrup. One time, he bolted out of the arena and ran into the barn with me still aboard – head in the rafters. He would work pretty quietly at the trot, but the canter was a mess, as it would be for any green horse. He cantered better when he spooked than he did when I asked him for it.

I tried showing him in an indoor walk/trot class in our barn, and he bolted, dumped me into the wall, and nearly ran the judge over as he tried to go out the gate (again) back into the barn.

To say I was outmatched by Starship is an understatement. Things did not work out.

So his replacement was an older ( an 8 year old) TB mare, that was also smaller. Starship was 16.2. This mare was 15.2. She was thin and fine boned. This picture was taken a couple weeks after I bought her.

Well…… let’s see how many things I did wrong when I bought this mare? First up – I bought her from a (cataloged) auction. I don’t remember her registered name, but I called her Kitana.

She rode around the arena just fine, and the winning bid was within my budget. I went to her stall to get her after sorting out the sale, and noticed immediately she had a cribbing collar on. Wait a minute – this was a cataloged auction and vices were supposed to be listed in the catalog.

I had 100% cause to go back and cancel the sale, but did I? Nope! Because I was so awesome I could work with anything.

After a bit of a back up session, she loaded onto the trailer and off we went. For about 10 minutes until we heard thud thud thud thud thud slam thud slam slam from the trailer which looked like it was going to come unhooked from the truck it was flying around the highway so bad.

We stopped to check on the mare, and lo and behold… there was blood everywhere. The center divider was destroyed, the outer trailer wall and the back door were dented and the mare had a massive gash/rub on her hip bone right down to the bone. I could see bone. BONE.

This was about 2 weeks later.

UGH! Drugged her up to get her the rest of the 3 hours back to the barn, and I spent the next 2 months doing nothing but mending thy wounds. You think that would have given me some great bonding time with her.

Nope! She became stall aggressive to the point where the barn worker would not go in. She would pin her ears, charge the door, and threaten to double barrel people that entered. She was fine for me so it was a very hard problem for me to fix since she did not do that when I went to get her.

However, when I finally got her healed up enough to actually get on her, she would curl up into a ball and bounce her way around the arena until I came off. every single time. I stuck with it, though, and tried for 6 months, getting bucked every time.

Thing was – my trainer could ride her just fine. Oh, so could a 12 year old that just loved her. It was just me. She only bucked with me.

Things did not work out. Especially after just coming off another TB that was a bolter/dumper.

There are definitely more horses that were not ideal, but not one takes the cake topper more so than my beautiful gray mare Spyder. Her registered name was All That Jazz, sired by Bordeaux, a great Hanoverian Dressage stallion. Her dam was a Hanoverian Society approved TB mare.

She was my first (well .. only) registered and branded warmblood and I was really eager to get serious with Dressage. By the time I bought Spyder, I had been riding for about 15 years, but consistently riding for about half that time. I was working with this mare with a top level (like seriously, gold and silver medalist) young dressage rider who continued on to win many USDF awards, golds, and start a successful dressage barn/business.

I was working with her 1 to 2 times a week, and this young, beautiful mare, seemed to be to good to be true. She was only 8, she was calm, easy mannered, and we were working on all the things that needed to be worked on.

Specifically we were working on getting her round – and you can tell by this photo how far we’d come to that end after 5 months of work. Yep. 5 months. Not one inkling of getting round, was she? Wrong leads? Check. Head above vertical every single stride. Check. Green body movement (swaying every which way)? Check. No engagement of the hind end? Check.

And then it happened. It happened. Spyder not only put me off mares forever, but she almost ended my entire riding career. She was really the beginning of the end.

We had been working for 8 months – 3 days’ a week. Primarily walk and trot, but we would definitely canter a lap or two around the arena and do some large 20(ish)m circles.

It was December 2006. I had owned her for 8 months. I was riding on my own, not during a lesson, and I asked for a canter. And Spyder exploded. Exploded.

In retrospect, it was just like she had contained her animosity for me and my poor riding for 8 months and did her best to please me, and she just could not contain it all any more. She just let it all out, and the level of progression of this response was nearly instant.

First she reared. When I asked her to move again, she pinned her ears, cow kicked so hard she hit the arena wall, and tried to bite my leg. I asked for a walk, and she reared again and again. She even reared/body slammed sideways, trying to slam me into the arena wall.

I got off, and tried to lunge her. I put her all the way to the end of the lunge line (and I hate lunging), and she moved about 10 feet and turned into me, ran towards me with her ears pinned, and the next thing I saw were two front feet flying my way. The mare attacked me. Viciously. I had a dressage whip in my hand, and that was the only thing that kept her from making contact with me.

Over the course of the entire winter, things got worse. I tried to ride her bareback, ride her in a different English saddle. I had to have a handler hold her on the ground. She would rear the second I got on her still at the mounting block.

I had a vet out to do a full exam, a 2nd vet out to try alternative treatments. She was chiropractored, shockwaved, given herbal treatments, pain medicine, methocarbamol… I had a saddle fitter out. Pick an alternative, and I tried it. Everything, from mouth to tail to hormones. I hauled her to a vet 2 hours away for a major work up including xrays. She fell “in love” with her neighbor at the vet and refused to load to go home. We had to heavily drug her and get 3 people to push her onto the trailer.

She would cow kick me on the cross ties, she would rear if I put her winter blanket on her. If I was leading her and asked her to turn or stop, she would attack me. I started working in hand with her, on basics like good ground manners, and she would attack me. And I do mean attack. She became hormonally infatuated with my other gelding, who lived in a paddock on the other side of the farm. Spyder would regularly break free from me, break cross ties, and run to the gelding and stand and squirt for him.

I bought a western saddle for her and started trying to ride her again after about 9 months of every conceivable medical and alternative option there was. For a while, I got in some rides. I was able to sit on her, I rode her around that fence-less outdoor arena at least maybe 6 times and all seemed like it was going well… until it didn’t and she went right back to the rearing attacking monster I was struggling with for 9 months.

So, I tried again – this time, in the form of a professional problem horse trainer. He was highly recommended and rode eventers. He came out, and told me some alarming things! He was not only familiar with her, but also with some of her history and her owner. The first thing he said to me as soon as we confirmed it was the same horse we were all talking about was that she was known to be dangerous.

He got on her, and I have video – so much video... of her rearing him into the walls, pinning her ears, biting at him. He got her going well, but she would split her time between rearing and riding.

So clearly, there were some major unknowns about her past, and it all just came back to the surface after I had her for many months without issue. Months.

I spent most of the next summer slowly and carefully attempting to teach Spyder to drive. We worked on ground driving, and while she was showing promise, she would also stop, randomly back up and try to double barrel me.

Spyder was not a fearful horse. She was highly intelligent and not at all spooky. She had all the qualities of a good driving horse, and I believe she would have actually loved it. I ground drove down the roads quite a bit and she was nearly perfect. I never did actually hitch her.

The next step with trying to figure out what to do with her was to bring her to my regular trainer’s barn. (Another trainer- as I was working with both a dressage trainer and a hunter/jumper trainer). I went to load her and she attacked me – chest thrust charging me. It took 2 people, a whip, and a lunge line leveraged into the trailer to get her inside.

I brought her to the H/J barn and the trainer rode her. The other students rode her. They jumped her. They loved her. She never gave them not one single problem. Never. Not once.

However, there was just 1 time I entered the arena while Spyder was being ridden. She saw me and immediately stopped her work and began rearing. I left the arena and she finished her ride without issue.

After my experiences with Spyder, I seriously began to reconsider what the heck I was doing with horses. When all was said and done, it was almost 2 full years that I struggled with Spyder. I tried taking weekly lessons after her, but I became hyper aware of any time a horse felt tense, like I was going to cause some kind of pain or behaviour issues.

Between sending Spyder to a new home and buying Chewbacca as my next (and final) riding horse, I took weekly lessons, and leased 2 horses. One of the 2 lease horses developed a bucking problem with me. Only with me. I even did some showing in an open show, but that was it. I had left a trail of ruined horses in my wake, going all the way back to 2002 with Kitana, and this was not at all the rider I wanted to be.

I had tried lessons, multiple trainers, multiple horses, multiple saddles, 3 disciplines, and everytime I rode consistently enough, the horse developed a bucking response or some other undesirable behaviour.

By the time I got up the nerve to get another riding horse of my own again, I had Chewbacca for 6 months and I stopped riding completely. He blew out a splint and went minorly lame for a few weeks, and I blamed myself.

That was it I was done riding.

I have now not been on a horse in almost 10 years. (February 2021 will be 10 years), and I switched to driving, never had a single issue with bucking or behaviour that I feel I caused – in fact, I was able to fix a few horses with behaviour issues driving, and it’s been a blast.

I simply had to be the best horse person I could be by recognizing the damage I was doing, my skill level, and what discipline suited me best.

Spyder really made me realize that in the hardest way possible with the loudest message she could possibly deliver. Given my history, it isn’t much of a shock that I chose to spare a horse’s back from my bad riding. I do love driving, though and I am going to deeply miss it once my last connection to horses is gone.

Posted in Dressage, Driving, Hackney, horse, Horses, hunter/jumper, Hunters, Jumpers, Quarter Horse, Riding, Thoroughbred | Leave a comment

Future Thoughts

A normal New Years’ tradition I have developed is to start each year with a list of goals – not resolutions. I just feel like resolutions are negative in a way, while goals are positive. Resolutions tend to be about seeing something you don’t like about yourself, and trying to fix it (usually diet) and they almost never last. Goals, are about looking to the future and working towards something you want to achieve.

My list of 2021 goals will be coming in .. well.. 2021.. but for now, I wanted to think about the future in other ways.

Dixie, one of my last 2 (miniature) horses, was put to rest this past Saturday 12.5.2020. It was the best thing to do for her, with winter upon us, and a 25 1/2 year old horse not in the best condition. There are photos of her from this year in which maybe you might think she did not look “too bad”. Even the vet said back in August she looked “Ok for her age.” Between September and November, though, she really went down hill (condition wise) and the look of her body from a photo in August (when I thought she was thin) to December 5 before I loaded her onto the trailer for the last time was shocking.

So, sweet and amazing little Jesse is the only one left, and he’s the last. He’s not just the last one of my herd, but he stands to quite possibly be the last of my physical connection to the horse world.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the past and most definitely about the future. I’ve been thinking about unachieved goals over the last 25+ years, be it due to lack of finances, support, or flat out skill, and I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the amazing blessings I had over the last 15 years since bringing Luke home in 2007, focusing entirely on driving by 2011, training Chewbacca to drive, and then immediately after getting him going, starting Jesse to drive.

I’ve been thinking about the truly wonderful things I accomplished from all the way back to Lady- my precious first horse, to Lickety, my second horse who I thought I could “go all the way” with, to the trials and errors with wrong horses, almost perfect horses and truly perfect horses all along the way right up to my last trio of excellence – Luke, Chewbacca, and Jesse.

Now only Jesse is still with me, and at 23 (almost 24), he is not far off from full retirement. Our truck and trailer owning, horse showing adventure days are behind us, and so is my training, working with a horse and bringing one along days.

I miss it like crazy already and I know in the future I will miss it even more, like losing a part of myself, when I step away from horses entirely. For a while in my life I tried everything involving horses – from riding and showing, to equine photography, equine book writing, teaching lessons, working with 4H, volunteering at shows, and well… even delved into a career in equine veterinary care as a licensed veterinary technician (went to college and everything for it).

I pursued “professional” competition, and came absolutely no where even remotely close to achieving it. I pursued owning a horse farm for decades, and now I can’t even imagine why I ever wanted one. I worked for years as a vet tech with different equine vets in 3 different states, and I got busted up and broken (with no health insurance, I might add….), and I still was never deterred from making my dreams of owning a farm, training horses, and competing come true.

It never really hit me until about age 35 that these things were fantasies, and I was meant for different things in life. But I never imagined that would be a life without horses.

You get them, you bring them into your life, and you never really think about when they’re going to be gone. You show, you fall, you try again. You sell the ones that don’t work, you wonder where they went. You keep the best of them, and you make a hard choice one day after how many blue ribbons or amazing trail memories.

So, here I am. Just one sweet perfect little horse left, and I cannot imagine at all getting up the gusto to get another one after he’s gone. It’s sad to think about, and I find myself really struggling with the whole idea of it all.

A new horse means once again, I would want to have the ability to get out and hit shows and parks and trails and get the horse the experience I want to give it, and expect it to know (training all over again). The lack of a truck and trailer prevents that! And it also means years and years spent training the horse until someday it’s old and retired and I have to decide to put it down.

I still have Jesse, and for now, he still is going. Someday I will have to make that choice for him, more than likely. But whenever the day comes that he is no longer around, I know I will be facing a day when horses, after almost (or over…) 30 years, will no longer be part of my life.

A piece of my equestrian-loving-show-pursuing-dream-accomplishing self died the day I put Luke and Chewbacca down and realized that I could not keep trying to spend literally every last dollar I had on a truck that barely ran, an old trailer, and golden-hued dreams of how I might end up at FEI level- glamorous hopes for someone who could barely finish a dressage test.

Now again, I suppose I’m feeling it. Even though Dixie honestly was primarily a companion horse, and I had not driven her since 2012 – she was still a part of my life for almost 15 years. She was always there to keep whatever horse I needed her to keep company, and in so many photos, while there was Luke and Chewbacca, and Jesse, there was Dixie, too. She wasn’t a “background” horse, she was just neither a show horse, or trail horse, or horse that enjoyed working on any level.

I feel a bit like Dixie had a mere tolerance of peasant human me, and if the treats ran out, so did her desire to want to be within arms’ reach of me, and that was just Dixie. It was OK. She came when I called her, she was allowed her freedoms, and in the end, I simply could not support her body in a condition well enough to get through the winter.

I do miss her, and I miss very much the events which haven’t even happened yet – losing horses in general from my life.

It’s all a bit sad and morbid to think about, but I do also plan to travel with my husband and see this world (with the board money I can save once I am horseless!), so there is a bright side to it all. Assuming we can ever world-travel again thanks to Corona!


Well… until Next time… and Next year!

Posted in Buckskin, Dressage, Driving, horse, hunter/jumper, Jumpers, miniature horse, Quarter Horse, Riding, Thoroughbred | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Old and the Things Yet To Be

Recently, I’ve had some things on my mind. The past, the very very past, the present, and the future. I definitely have anxiety and some of that comes in the form of over-assessing all that I have done and experienced and what might happen next.

That isn’t a bad thing overall, really. The last four years since I met my husband has been the most amazing time of my life. In fact, in just a week, we will be celebrating our 1 year wedding anniversary! One year since we stood on the beach in Key West and said our vows!

Since meeting him, my life has been FULL of amazing accomplishments, happiness, love, and experiences I never imagined could happen. And it’s been a huge, huge turn around from the way I thought my life would go – or the dreams I once pursued.

When I was little, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals and wanted to be around them all the time. What I could never realize at the tender age of 5, was the costs associated with such things, and the realities of working in that field. Eventually I did go into veterinary medicine, getting a degree and license in veterinary technology, a 2 year degree instead of 8. And I specialized in equine medicine.

I wanted to ride horses and own horses from as young as I can remember, and that led me, naturally, to wanting to own a farm, be a professional trainer/competitor and boarding stable owner. There’s just an itty bitty issue with that, which you quickly realize when you’re 18 and barely making above minimum wage (which was not much when I was 18 I promise you) and buy your first horse— it’s expensive!

Farms, horses, the insurance, the upkeep, all the needs! But I did not care at that time. I had purchased Lady and that was how it was going to be. I worked hard, and fully believed that it would somehow turn into the farm of my dreams. And the farm I wanted, naturally, was the first one I met, rode, and boarded Lady at:

I had a little Google fun and looked back at these places. This place was secluded, last on a dead end road, and had an apple orchard and pond (out of frame to the right of the photo). The paddocks are at the back of the white-roofed barn. The paddock on the left side of the image is the one where Lady ripped her leg apart on the barbed wire.

Of course I had no idea at that time that barbed wire was bad for horses. I learned fast, though! It was a poorly kept, rundown barn with a hoarder’s house that needed to be completely razed. But I loved the property and the horse farm, so it was what I wanted. Regardless of how unachievable buying a farm that needed easily 1/2 mil in work on top of purchase price was for a 20 something making minimum wage.

I did get to work as equine veterinary technician, and while the money was good – the hours were literally on call, sometimes all night, with no health insurance, no 401K, no benefits. Yes, really. Really. I worked for veterinarians who ran their own show the way they wanted to, and they were happy to trample over young, arrogant, industrious know-it-alls like me.

You would think – after flashing forward through years of pursuing farm owning dreams and riding dreams and watching them all come crashing down due to abuse, cancer, and finances, that I would have looong given up on the hope of owning a farm, but nope!

There was a point where I did sell the only horse I owned at that time, and wanted to stay out of horses, and pursue costuming and conventions – building costumes and hopefully competing professionally (what can I say, I had some high dreams).

It would be years before I found another place I would want to own, which is where I boarded Luke, Chewbacca, Dixie, Jesse, and Tate while I had him, for years and years. Again, it was in need of repair, but it was my home away from home and I loved it.

For a while there, I really thought I was getting into the right point of my life at around 30 to finally maybe start pursuing my showing goals. I had the right horse in Luke- a big change from a hyper Thoroughbred ex race mare, to a 12.2 hackney driving pony. I had a truck and trailer. I wanted to get into pairs and even teams, and I dreamed still of owning that farm. It was 12 acres, and everything in this photo from the street to the treeline was the farm property.

I know people who are around my age and either still struggle with their horse farm-owning dreams, or have had a farm and lost it. I know other people who just “own” farms because their family owned it from the time they were young.

I finally stopped dreaming about all of it- not just owning a farm, but even a house at all – but it took something to tune of 35 years to finally give up on that hope. I still hoped to be a competent and capable show competitor with Luke, but even with that, there were still places and events I wanted to attend that were unachievable. Then, just 2 years later, I would ultimately lose Luke, sell the trailer, and the truck… welll… the truck went to truck heaven too.

But during that time, my life changed and became a whirlwind of all new dreams- dreams I never dreamed of – and dreams I always dreamed of – coming true, and it started with meeting my husband.

Suddenly, my horse farm and show dreams were gone, my excess tack hoarding was sold (lol…), and it truly is real – when one door closes, another opens.

With my husband, I was able to realize other dreams I had long given up on, and my eyes finally opened up to many truths. How ridiculous the 20 years I spent pursuing horse farm/showing dreams was when I had no money (still don’t!)…. how important it was that I finally got a job with benefits like 401k. How absolutely crucial health insurance was! In other words- real life!

But fantasy life, too! We are travellers, and have been fortunate enough to work hard and save and pay for trips to so many fun and wonderful places I either never though were possible to achieve (like the Bahamas) or had given up on ever seeing again (like Manhattan – my stomping grounds of my teen years).

For the first time in my life, I got a brand new car. Like … with 37 miles on it Brand new! For the first time in my, life, I closed on a house! It took almost 4 decades, but the things that I just thought were normal parts of life that were unachievable, were finally happening.

And now, even my husband and I are looking forward. I know horse farm owning is not in my future, but many other wonderful things are and I am blessed. Beyond blessed.

For now, Jesse and Dixie have been moved to a new boarding farm. As Dixie nears the end of her ride, Jesse needs to adjust to new friends his own size. I still debate over whether or not it’s time to retire Jesse. Sometimes he just seems bored with going out on the roads and driving around. Sometimes he still is on fire, so it’s a hard choice, but he is also pushing 24 years old now. Dixie will be 26 in June 2021 if she were to make it that long, which is highly questionable right now.

But, that is what it is. Nothing lives forever, and I’ve lost Lady, Tate, Luke, Chewbacca, and all the horses of my past that I loved like Lickety Split and Zoltan, are all long gone.

My husband and I have our eye on the future, and that future for us is bright. Literallly….. as in lots of sun. We want to move away from the snow and cold of the midwest and go to the land of palm trees and sunshine… Florida!

Yes, we really want to ultimately do that “old person” thing and retire to Florida. We are eyeballing up future plans to have a new construction home in a fancy resort-like subdivision near Ocala. (Horse capitol of Florida, ironicallly!).

I don’t know if more minis are in my future at all. You never know. I’ve learned that nothing is impossible, and it’s never too soon to plan for everything. If you have a bucket list, start doing it! I lost 12… TWELVE… years of my life not being “allowed” to travel to the places I dreamed, or even own the things I dreamed of (like a house.. or new car…)… and now, my husband and I are working on our bucket list and looking forward to a future retirement in a house just like this. Literally.

This is actually one of the new construction models we like. It does seem a bit intimidating to think about, and who knows what will happen, but I have definitely learned dreams can and do come true, and some dreams just aren’t meant to come true because bigger and better things are out there!

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Late Summer Travel, Winter Blues

The time has really gotten away from me! I had a goal, which I clearly blew, of posting once a month, but it’s amazing how my brain just lapses and all of a sudden I realize I haven’t posted since our amazing 4th of July experience in Niagara Falls.

I have to say, my husband and I are incredibly lucky. We get to travel. Partly because we don’t have children, nor is that an option for me/us. So, while that does make for a heavy heart sometimes, when I think about it too much, it still also means we get to enjoy a certain freedom. (Oh, and I won’t lie… not having 4 horses helps with that too).

I read a friend’s post about owning horses and what “I could have had”… basically, if you didn’t have horses, you could have had a — new car/vacations/nice clothes.. take your pick. But because you did own horses — there are plenty of things you do/did have that goes unappreciated by non-horse people.

I fought against non horse people (cough,cough, family….) and did it all myself. I worked for my horses, not just at the barn to work off board, but also had a real job from the time I was young. I bought my own vehicle, trailer, paid my own board, bought my own horses, paid for my own lessons, and paid for my own shows/memberships.

Horses kept me sane through some of darkest times of my life, and my first horse, Lady, really really gave me healthy focuses while going through some bad experiences. Fast forward a few years, and a few more horses, and I got into the Best Trio of horses I’ve ever known – Luke, Chewbacca, and Jesse.

I don’t regret any of it, not even for a second. I have cherished memories of them all, and while I was going through the hell of my first marriage, those horses kept me together – and out of the house.

That all said, from a financial aspect, sure it’s easier being down to 2. I’ve owned horses for 23 years (and counting) and the amount of board I’ve spent…. well… you don’t want to know. I always wanted to own a farm , but it was always a dream… one that I thought I was working towards when I was 20, and one I thought my first husband would help me towards which… welll….. Suffice to say, I’ve been boarding for the entirety of my horse-owning times.

Now, with just 2, and amazing husband, travelling and going to conventions is a whole lot more possible than it ever was between 2004 and 2015. I love my dear Jesse, and then there’s Dixie, who has developed some health issues this year, but overall, we are managing.

Jesse is doing extremely well… eating a part of Dixie’s extra feed. Dixie looked pretty awful around August, but the medication she is on for her condition (she has Cushing’s and is on Prascend, has helped, and she’s been gaining weight. She is a lot of feed for such a tiny horse, so this isn’t going to go on too much longer, but I am hopeful we can get through winter.

I think one thing owners really struggle with is when to euthanize a horse (r any animal). It’s OK to have your limits of what you physically, emotionally, or financially can or will do. I think people struggle with that last one. Many owners feel compelled to literally go broke trying to eek out a few extra weeks/months from an ailing senior animal, and it is not to the animal’s benefit, nor is it to the benefit of the owner who can’t afford the credit debt expenses for an animal that will die regardless.
I am at the top end of what I can and will do for Dixie, and I’m hoping just to get her through the winter, really. But if the time comes sooner, it comes.

In other fun news, my amazing husband and I managed to take a little trip in September to celebrate his birthday. He turned the big 4-0 and I wanted to really do something extravagant since it’s usually me that wants to do big things on my birthday, and we don’t tend to do much as far as trips or big things for my husband’s birthday.

So, we went to……

Diagon Alley!

We are big fans of everything sci-fi/ fantasy, obviously! And we had not been to Universal Studio’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter at all, so that is where we spent his birthday! I also treated him to dinner that night of Japanese A5 Certified Wagyu beef. And yes, it really is every bit as buttery amazingness as you may have read it is.

We have both had American Wagyu before, which is excellent. In fact, we are going to buy ourselves some for Christmas to cook for a nice dinner. But we’ve never had A5 Wagyu before – and for the price (about $30 per ounce), you certainly can’t make a meal out of it, but it is truly amazing!

He had that as an appetizer to a filet mignon! It was an amazing day, and an amazing long weekend trip just hanging out in Florida, visiting Disney Springs, and enjoying all the sights in Universal. We had such a wonderful time, though we learned that all the Harry Potter attractions are actually split into 2 parks, and requires 2 admissions ( and 2 days) to see.

We were only at Universal for 1 day, so that means – a return trip! We will have to do it soon, but probably not in 2020.
Travelling during a pandemic is a whooole lot of mask-wearing, and I am hopeful for a mask-free 2021. We have BIG plans for 2021!!!!!!


And, just one more photo – we found a Wilson’s Snipe while out looking for birds around the county and checking out some new possible birding locations for 2021.

Enjoy your day!

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July 2020 – Corona, Adventure, Shock

I don’t quite even know where to begin with this post. Wait… yes, I do!

Warning– WARNING— this is going to be looooooong.

So here’s where we start….

My Amazing Husband and I did something this month, despite Corona:

Despite Corona Virus putting a squash on our original vacation plans we had since January which included staying at a Bed and Breakfast in Canada, and also killing any hope we had for 4th of July Fireworks, we still were able to pull off an absolutely amazing weekend at Niagara Falls.

It was HOT, but it was wonderful. This is a view from the Maid of the Mist, which short story – we were lucky to get on.

Long story:

We spent the morning doing 9 holes at a nearby golfcourse and then headed to Niagara Park wanting to make the MotM the first thing we did. Wellllllll……. Corona messes everything up!
They were only allowing 50% capacity to allow for ‘social distancing’ on the boat (yea, right…), and the liiiiine…. the liiiiiiine…. was 3 1/2 -4 hours wait!!! It was 93, and we had no water, no ability to go potty (big issue for me!) and we hadn’t eaten since before our tee time.

Sooooo… We waited…. for an hour… before hunger and thirst and heat just took over. We ended up doing a little souvenir shopping and then sitting down to eat some good yummies. We returned to Niagara park close to 7pm when the MotM was closing, and I did notice that the line was pretty much gone, but it seemed like people were still walking through. I asked the attendant if we could get in still, and lo and behold! We were 2 of the last 20 people to get on the last boat!

The timing ended up being really perfect, and seeing the falls from down below was truly exhilarating. My husband and I both loved every second of it and would do it again and again and again. (Note to selves… if we go – don’t do it on a Saturday major holiday during a pandemic….)

So, after the boat ride we found a nice place on the park lawn to just flatten out and wait for the fire works at 10pm…. and wait… and wait… and … wait? Why are people leaving at 10:15? What the hell happened to the fire works? Cancelled? Sunnabeeeeetch….

We were already in the park, so we didn’t see them putting up the GIANT lighted sign in front that said Fireworks cancelled. Oh well, can’t have everything I suppose.

We headed back to the hotel and rested up for a very long drive back home the next day. It was a short weekend, with lots of driving and lots of activities crammed into a short period of time, but it was wonderful, truly.

I know I had been to Niagara Falls once when I was younger, but I don’t really remember it. I don’t remember much from my past. I’ve been told that memory issues is a very real problem with mental trauma sufferers. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know I struggle to remember much of anything if I don’t have pictures and a logged history of it.

Speaking of mental trauma and logged history – this is where the *shock* in the headline comes in.
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, not only do I feel bad for you, but I imagine you probably also know about my journey through mental/emotional abuse, narcissistic control, and eventually my break free from that and the subsequent mental shutdown I had. I blogged about much of it to certain detail.

Well, here comes the shock.

A bit of a backstory on that abuse… I have a long long history with abuse. From a mother who threw me through walls, threatened to kill me, and told me I was no good and rotten to sexual abuse from a close family member… Sometimes I don’t know how my Dad- who got “stuck” with me when I was a trainwreck of a 15 year old even managed to deal with me. He did also see much of my mother in me, and they hated each other, so it was easy, almost natural to put me right in the middle.

It also isn’t a bit stretch, when considering the abuse and lack of self-esteem I had, to imagine why I would jump up and marry the only man in the world who said he loved me and wanted to marry me, even after just 6 months together.

Way back in 2003, I met a guy who said he loved me. He said a lot of things, actually… but failed to follow through on almost all of it. Suffice to say, I won’t get into gruesome details, but the next 12 years consisted of me trying to get away, and being controlled, threatened, manipulated, gas-lighted, stockholmed, and almost truly tortured in a way – into staying.

I finally broke away in 2015, got divorced officially in 2016, and started down nearly a year long path of mental imbalance which to some degree has stayed with me all these years, even after meeting my husband in Nov 2016, and having the best, happiest, times of my life every day since then with a man that is the living rendition of my every fantasy. He is God’s gift to me, and I know it.

So at any rate, despite the happiness and true joy I have in my life now, I still always carried my ex-husband with me. I would often think of specific or general things that he did towards me, and sometimes I would fall back into anxiety over them.

All until July 3. It all stopped.

Yes, July 3. My husband and I drove across part of the country to go to Niagara falls, and I hadn’t really checked my phone during much of the trip. When we got to the hotel near the Falls, I happened to check and I noticed I had a message from someone I had not talked to in nearly 15 years… he was a friend of my ex husband. At first I didn’t recognize the name, but then I remembered meeting the man once or twice.

“Hello, you probably don’t remember me…” he started… and then went on to say… “I know it’s been years since you’ve talked to your ex, but I felt you should know that he passed away last week.”

I was shocked. Floored. NOT the type of message anyone really expects to get, especially at the start of a holiday vacation! I was shaking, literally shaking, after I read the message.

How did my ex die? Details? I needed details. A thousand questions burned through my head all in an instant and while simultaneously, I also felt an odd sense of closure, release. Any animosity I had harbored towards him over the last 4 1/2 years had disappeared and once I got my head straight enough, I just prayed to God that my ex was at peace in Heaven, a peace he never really had on Earth.

To say it was stressful night, weekend, week after, and week after that … was an understatement.

He had died of pancreatic cancer, which he was diagnosed with in May. He started chemo one week before, and I don’t know if the chemo killed him, or the cancer, but he died at his home, alone, where the police found him on the living room floor as I was told.

He still had the cats that I had abandoned to him when I left, because I left with no money and no home, certainly no means to take on 4 cats. He also had his parrot, and his parent’s dog, since the dog we owned together had passed. As it turned out, he had pre-arranged care for the animals, which was good, because I was stressed to think where they might have ended up.

I was very stressed about it all for a while, and it still feels so odd…. I was asked if I wanted anything, and I did say the 2 things I wanted. 1 might be lost – my DragonCon Badge from 2003, the year I met him at DragonCon, and the other thing I wanted… would be something I likely would not get. We shall see.

I was also asked if I would attend his memorial, and while I said no, I did provide his friend handling the details of the memorial with many pictures. I have almost my entire life since 2000 on a hard drive (see memory issues above, lol!), and when I left, the hard drive of my life was one thing I grabbed without question. So I have all the photos of our life together – photos which I could not ever look at until a few weeks ago. I couldn’t even say his name until a few weeks ago. But I was able to speak of him, and look through all those photos and send them for use at the funeral without really feeling much emotion. Just a sort of … separation, I guess.

Tomorrow will be 1 month since he passed away, and it still feels a bit fresh. I worry about my own cancer survival prospects, knowing that he and I both were diagnosed with the same rare cancer within 2 years of each other – yes.. you read that right – we both were diagnosed with sarcoma cancer 2 years apart.

He was diagnosed with a tumor behind his right eye in 2009, and I was diagnosed with a tumor in my right leg in 2011. He survived 11 years and died at the age of 50 –just 4 days before his 51st birthday -of something else entirely.

I’m at 9 years. While I’m not 50 yet (he was 10 years older than me), I am still very worried about my own health going forward. Do I have 2 years as well? More? Less? Who is to know. It’s all in God’s hands…. mostly I worry for my husband and how he will cope and overcome without me. I worry for him so much.

It’s been a very somber month, thinking about such things but at the same time, I also feel like I’m at peace too. So many of the fears I had… about running into him with my husband at an event or such.. just all stopped. The way he was towards me just seeped away, like it no longer holds any control over me.

I figure I won’t get the other thing I want, and for a while I allowed myself to be upset by that, but I also let that pass, too. In life, the man gave me nothing. He provided me with nothing. In death, it would be the same. All I can do now is pray for him that he is at peace, and that I truly do pray.

While I will never quite fully understand why he was the way he was towards me, why he did the things he did – not just to me, but to his mother, himself, and everyone he knew… I can only pray he now has that peace he definitely never had in life.

So Rest well, my ex-husband. Truly, it is the only – the most powerful- thing I can do for you now.

As for myself, I pray that cancer does not beat me just yet. I’ve made it clear to God that I expect my husband and I to live another 87 years, and then go out together in an airplane crash at the same time. LOL! (Hey, I want to be cremated anyway…)

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June Updates

Well, I believe we are at what…day 130 of the Corona Virus lockdown/pandemic, and that’s not even to mention all the other craziness happening in the world (… or at least the States) right at the moment.|

I hope, where ever you are, that you are safe. There is always a light after the darkness, so the most we can do is just hold tight and wait.

For my husband and I, we still have some wonderful travel plans for 2020 and we even have our plans booked and done for 2021.

I’m terribly terribly excited for the amazing things we’ve got planned for 2021, but first, we have some wonderful things happening in 2020.

For the 4th of July Independence Day Holiday, we are planning to visit Niagara falls. Unfortunately our plans changed from a B & B in Canada to a hotel in NY since the Canadian border is now closed and shall remain closed through late July. Bummer.

But I’m looking forward to the road trip all the same, and hopefully maybe find some fun birds we don’t see in the midwest.

Speaking of birds, here’s a small smattering from a recent nature hike.

Later in 2020, my husband is celebrating a birthday – a milestone birthday, when the “dial” hits another 0 and a new decade of life begins. So, to celebrate, we are planning to go to Los Angeles and Universal Studio Hollywood (Harry Potter World!)
It’s late enough into the year that I would hope life will be fairly back to normal by then, and I am looking forward very much to our first trip to California!

Woo hooo!

So, I hope in a few weeks to have some Niagara Falls images, maybe some new birdies.

Horsie updates- Dixie is still the same, which is kind of good and kind of not so great. It means she’s at least holding/maintaining, but it also means we aren’t making any progress getting weight on her, and generally she is just failing. Such a bummer, and I wish I had better new to share about her.

Jesse is doing fine! Healthy and shiny and finally shed out after a long cold spring.

That’s pretty much it! More photos/updates soon I hope!

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I’m Going Squirrely

I really am.

But first.  I am trying to make sure I at least make a post a month, and I missed April, so clearly that particular goal for 2020 didn’t take long to mess up.  No worries, I’ll just make a doubly long post in May to make up for it (that counts, right?)…..

But I really am going squirrely.  Absolutely in every way.

Let me explain…

One thing that started a few years back (ok… more like 20 and few..) was a love of photography.  I also love walking.  So I would take my camera with me on walks and hikes regularly, which meant I usually photographed birds.

I consider myself an “accidental bird enthusiast” because I never set out specifically due to a love of birds.  I just loved walking and hiking and photography.

Eventually, the spawned into a love of photographing birds, which then turned into wanting to get my first bird feeder, which I did  in 2017.  I never got a single bird to it.


Well, eventually my (then boyfriend) and I moved and got a condo on a 2nd floor with a lovely patio.  So, up went the bird feeder.  Over the last few years, that has spawned my “Birdtopia”.

During the summer, I have as many as 8 different feeders out there on multiple hooks, and I have kept record of nearly 25 species of birds that have visited (including a Cooper’s Hawk that my husband spotted right on our deck!)

Here’s a few shots from Birdtopia just in the last few weeks.

downyblue jawstarlingnuthatchhummergoldfinchoriole    oriole2

The little brown and red birds with yellow on their wings above are European Goldfinches.  They were reportedly released from a Chicago area pet store in the 90’s and have built up a small, but thriving, population between Chicago and Milwaukee.  Fun birds!

But Birdtopia has a nemesis……..


Now, the last few summers it was just a once in a while visit from a squirrel.  They would come, snag a few peanuts from the Blue Jay feeder, and be gone.  They come all winter, too, but I have a lot less feeders out due to the migration patterns of the birds.

Well, this year, the squirrel….. ahem, sorry, *squirrels*, have become permanent residents.

With Corona Virus, I am working from home along with my husband.  Because of that, I get to spend 8 hours at my makeshift kitchen table work space, watching the bird feeders right outside the patio door.  And I’ve now seen why my peanut ring (for the Blue Jays) gets empty so quickly.  And it isn’t from the Blue Jays.

So the war has been waged.  I am losing my mind dealing with multiple squirrels, and I have tried everything from removing feeders to hot pepper.  They launch over onto the deck from a near by tree, the tip of which I would love to cut off by about 2 feet and I think that would solve my issue, but I also don’t think we would be allowed to do it.

I thought about putting plexi on the deck, preventing the squirrels from being able to jump through the railing or get a grip to climb up them.  But I really don’t want to screw holes through my railings and add plastic that will ultimately get dirty and look really ugly on our beautiful deck.

So, I’m considering a torpedo style squirrel baffle and I’m looking into getting some longer reaching deck mount feeder poles to hopefully put some of the feeders well of out the ability of the squirrels to get to.

I have, over the last few days, actually confirmed 5 individual squirrels, so there is no shortage of furry little pillagers coming to Birdtopia.  In fact, the other day, one individual squirrel hung and consumed an entire mealworm suet block in a period of 5 hours.  From 6am until 11am, the squirrel never left the deck, and hung upside down off the shepard’s hook, eating that entire suet block like some kind of bird-seed eating vampire bat.

Sooooo… my little hobby of feeding birds has become not only frustrating, but expensive.  Extended reach, squirrel resistant deck mount poles are not cheap.  But the hassle of having them always around, always consuming what’s out there for the birds is worse.

At any rate, I don’t just sit and watch the birds come to me.  I do also actively go birding, not only in my own back yard but at local parks and nearby nature preserves.  The best part is, my husband (who also does real estate photography anyway) got himself a birding lens, too.  So now we go birding together.

I was the “accidental birder”, and now he’s the “birder by marriage”.  It’s fun to discover a species you haven’t seen before.  It’s neat to watch birds do what they do, and creep along quietly down a trail hoping not to spook it off.   It’s also just wonderful to be out in nature, under the sun, walking around some new beautiful park.

I have spotted and ID’s over 130 species of birds in the last 7-8 years, and my husband, over the last 3, has definitely spotted at least a good 40 different species.  (Not counting any birds in captivity/at zoos, etc…)

Here are few little biridies we’ve found this year so far just in our own backyard.




And at the nature preserve, one my most favorite places in the world to go to, we took a trip there in late April on a sunny day, and got quite a treat… in addition to seeing over 50 American White Pelicans, we got to see two new duck species for us – a Hooded Grebe (first photo) and a Gadwall (2nd photo).

horned grebegadwallshovelersturtleegretpelicancoot

We will take another trip there in the coming weeks, hopefully around Memorial Day if the weather suits.  It’s a big, beautiful Wildlife Refuge, and throughout the year, the variety of birds to be found there always changes.
I’m also looking forward to a hiking trip planned for July to a new Park, where I hope to find a “lifer” bird for me – a Pileated Woodpecker.  The kind of bird I might only find once in my life, and we have been looking for one for years.

In some non-bird news, just a quick update about Dixie and Jesse.  Dixie is really showing her age.  She had a couple very bad teeth removed a few months ago.  Prior to that, she lost a tremendous amount of weight very quickly, and after having her teeth removed and some diet changes, I am happy to at least say that she hasn’t lost any more weight.  She also isn’t really gaining, either. (Dixie is the lighter one).

It’s hard with an older mini, and Dixie is old, mind you.  She was born in 1995.  At 25 years old, she is very much a senior horse, with a realistic life span of 30 years.  Potentially, a mini could live to be 35+, but there are very very few horses that ever actually live that long.

So with older horses, come older horse maintenance problems.  Feed changes are usually the result of tooth loss, just like in Dixie’s case. Usually those feed changes include soaking the feed into a mash to make it easier for a horse to chew and swallow, and even removing hay completely from their diet and replacing it with soaked mashes of grain or alfalfa, in addition to adding supplements.

There’s only so many changes I can do since Dixie and Jesse live together, and anything I give to Dixie to make her gain needed weight, would also put Jesse at risk of getting dangerously obese.  So Dixie gets special food on her own.  There are risks to a horse being too obese, just as much as having one too thin.

All the same they are both doing well.  Jesse is not exactly young, either.  He was born in 1997. I have two senior horses left out of my little herd.  Unlike Luke, who no extreme measures at all got him to gain any weight, Dixie’s situation is different.  Her’s is old horse/dental related.  Luke’s was (suspected) cancer related.

I think about Luke and Chewbacca every day.  How I miss them.  I miss them both so much.  I loved the bright sun shiney days when I would take Luke, Chewbacca, and Jesse all out for a long drive, and spend hours and hours at the barn with them.

Losing them was hard, and watching my last two age is hard, too.  With losing Chewbacca and Luke, a piece of my horse-loving soul was chipped away.  I still think back to my very first horse I bought in 1999, Lady.  I still think about the day I lost her.  The day I sold my 2nd horse, who is now long gone, too….
I’ve had many horses over the years, and I’ve had to put down 4 of them.  Sold the others for various reasons.  I still have 2 to go.

Sometimes I think about getting another miniature horse maybe in 10 or 20 years… after my husband and I move to Florida.  But then I think about the costs, commitment, and parting ways with them eventually for one reason or another and I’m not sure I really want to take it on.    I guess we will just see where life takes us.  One day at a time!

Jesse and Dixie    jesse  dixie

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