The Big Chop

I spent years imagining the moment of waking up from top surgery. I would stand in the shower, head bowed, fingers massaging the sore muscles across my ribs, and let myself dream about summers without binding, of workouts and long runs unmarred by the nagging whispers of dysphoria, of wardrobe decisions unburdened by the need to conceal and protect.

I always thought I would feel a rush of relief, warm and bright. I thought I might laugh, or cry, and feel like Atlas straightening his spine. After seven months (and 9 days) I’ve felt all of that, but my recovery didn’t start out that way.

It started out with a small, dim room made of umber-colored curtains, with the familiar beep of my own vitals, with me turning blearily to my mom as she perched in an uncomfortable chair, and mumbling in a voice that hadn’t quite returned yet:

“Didya geta chance to eat lunch?”

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An unexpected new year

“Well, cheers,” my dad said, leaning down to touch his champagne glass against my water bottle — still cold from the hours I’d worked at the barn in sub-freezing temperatures.

“Thanks,” I sat up from my place tucked into a corner of the couch, disturbing my boyfriend’s dog sleeping at our feet.

“Twenty two,” my dad hummed, gazing absently at the television, “who would have thought you’d make it.”

“Ha, the horses tried,” I joked, inviting a recollection of all the times I’d almost glanced death through a horse’s ears in my sixteen years as a rider. My dad left to finish making dinner. The boyfriend and his dog had to go home. I stood by the front door to see them off and looked into the galaxies of frost curling across the glass.

Who would have thought I’d make it to 22? Honestly, not me.

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Half Halting: Horseless for the first time ever

I’ve recently been the subject of a few interviews (more on that later) and one question the interviewer always asks is, “why did you get into horses?” I smile and shrug and tell them that I’ve been riding since I was five-years-old, so I have no idea why I started but I stuck with it because I love the horses. Now, for the first time in 16 years I’m about to find myself without a horse or barn to ride with.

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Hard, Scary Nonsense

Last week one of my homework assignments was to watch “Free Schooling” by Damian Gardiner on Gardiner shared his strategy for free schooling horses over spooky jumps, explaining that he likes to use free schooling to expose horses to the types of fences they’ll see in a show ring.

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The Lesson: A One Act Play

I’m an Equestrian studies major (shocking, I know) and one of the questions I get most often is, “What is your homework like????” Well, you fine inquiring minds, some of my homework involves watching videos on and writing summaries/reflections on the content. I was digging through old assignments the other day and found this gem based off a video in Bernie Traurig’s “Exercises for Developing A Better Eye” series.

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Training Chronicles: Leo – Setting Them Up to Succeed

This past winter I had the privilege of working with a thoroughbred named Leo, who I spoke briefly about in Do Horses Self-Soothe?

Leo is a registered thoroughbred. I spent one particularly sleepless night digging up his history and discovered he was born in 2009 in New York, raced a few times, (never won) retired in 2013 and somehow made his way from a re-training facility in South Carolina to New Holland auction in Pennsylvania by September, 2015. Continue reading

I’m alive (And published!)

I’ve been gone a while. I don’t really have an excuse other than I’m figuring some personal stuff out and I’m neck-deep in school work. However! I do plan to make a triumphant return to this blog soon. In the meantime, I’ve been up to some pretty cool stuff, including co-founding a magazine for the Equestrian program at my school. We’ve got a few articles up so far and more are coming.

The debut piece was written by yours truly, so if you’d like to know what hosting an IHSA show as the reigning National Champion team is like, please check out:

Caution: Blog Changes Ahead

Confession time.

I started this blog for a class project. We’ve been required to plan, post, and maintain our online presence for the past 8 weeks. This is the last full week of class, which means that soon I won’t have the looming threat of a failing grade to motivate me to keep up with posting.

I do plan to keep this blog going, and I still want to post once a week (especially with the classes I’m taking next quarter, I should have lots of stories to tell.) However, I am going to be changing the makeup of this blog, so I want to take a moment to explain how and why that will happen. Continue reading

Training Chronicles: Dr. Pepper Intro

Training Chronicles will be an ongoing series where I talk about the horses I’ve worked with and what they taught me.

I’ll start by introducing my influences more completely, because these horses really did shape me as a rider and a person and if you’re going to understand anything about my approach to working with horses you’ll need to know where I’m coming from.

First up is Dr.Pepper (I’ve Been Selected), an AQHA registered gelding who had a mildly successful run in the Dressage ring with an older girl before I started riding him.

My and Pepper’s story is long and twisty, but for now we’ll just go over the basics. Continue reading

Why I’m an Equestrian Studies Major

I’m an Equestrian Studies major. That means I’ve chosen to spend my college years taking classes about all things equine, from riding and riding instruction, to anatomy, to barn design.

I get a fair amount of flack from my peers, whose eyes tend to gloss over as soon as they hear the word equestrian.

I go to an art school, and one would think that kids who get the ‘your major is dumb and you’ll never make any money that way’ talk all the time would be reluctant to put down their classmates.

Yet, I’ve had people look me dead in the eye and ask, “Why waste your time on horses?” Continue reading