Spring horse show season has begun!

Many horse professionals from New England travel to the Aiken South Carolina or to Wellington/Ocala Florida for the winter to continue training and showing and return in time for the show season up here! My former barn in Massachusetts, Orchard Hill Equestrian Center, started their schooling show series in April AND the very next weekend was the UNH Spring Trials, a recognized show important to many Area 1 eventers. The schooling show at my old barn was a 2 phase, meaning just dressage and stadium jumping. Right now the cross country field is too soft/muddy. The event at UNH was all three phases meaning dressage, stadium jumping, and cross country.

I volunteered as dressage scribe for the schooling show, which is always a fun job. It can be crazy furiously scribbling down every word the dressage judge says onto the score sheets, but I always learn a lot. I am always too busy during dressage to take any dressage pics. Once dressage was done though, I got to be a spectator for the stadium jumping.

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This particular rider lost her stirrup very early in the round, you can see in this pic her foot is out of the stirrup!!! Superstar!

From where I now live in NH, UNH isn’t that far at all! Mizpah and I headed over to watch some friends from Orchard Hill compete. We weren’t there early enough to watch a lot of dressage, but we did get to see some stadium jumping and cross country. Walking the cross country course is always a lot of fun with Mizpah. We totally have her do all the jumps and play in the water complex haha. The course was definitely muddy and wet in some areas, but UNH did a great job of spreading gravelly sand to the approach and landing areas for jumps that needed it. The UNH students in the equine science and agricultural programs volunteer to make this show run as smoothly as possible.

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Pretty much the only good pic I got of my friend stadium jumping

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Mizpah in the XCountry start box!!

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Beautiful scenery for cross country

A great place to watch some cross country is here at the water complex. In that one area you get to see a few jumps and of course the spaaaalash into the water!

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Jump before the water complex

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Jump over the log down into the water!

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Coop after the water! Lots of pats and exclamations of excitement after this jump!

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The earliest I will be riding again will be this coming winter, so for my own sanity, I will be trying to attend a lot of horsey fun events to get my fix until then. It was so nice seeing my barn friends and supporting the schooling show at Orchard Hill as well as the riders at UNH. Mizpah was an absolute star. Most horse people also looooove dogs, so it was a great day to get her out on the leash greeting kids, adults, other dogs, and select horses who I know are ok around dogs. At horse shows its particularly important for Mizpah to NOT jump on people because no one wants muddy paw prints on their riding pants before entering the ring!!

Anyone planning on getting out to some horsey events this spring and summer? Maybe a polo tournament, a race, or a local show?? Kentucky Derby is coming up, wish I was going!!!

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Reflecting on horses in 2016

I started riding horses back in January 2007, so it has been 9 years this year. Crazy. I graduated college in 2006 and thought about staying in crew. I almost joined Riverside Boat Club in Cambridge but got scared off by the cost and time. I was working in Cambridge and my cubicle neighbor owned a couple horses. I started riding at Harmony Horse Stables in Littleton MA. I still remember my first lesson on a chestnut thoroughbred named Penny Lane. There have been quite a few horses since, Flora & Squirt, Jolie & Ivy, Gemma, Acoya, Sterling, Sofie, Derby…..etc etc 🙂

When I was reflecting on my year, I couldn’t help thinking about horses. I moved this year up to NH and had to leave my barn, Orchard Hill Equestrian Center, where I had been riding since 2010. I started riding at OHEC for a mare named Cheval, Chevie for short. She was a huge white percheron/TB cross that I leased for about a year. She was sold and then I basically have just been riding school horses ever since. This past May, a very special horse became a school horse named Beau. He was/is my dream horse. Forward with a big floaty trot, rhythmic rocking horse canter. He’s a big Oldenburg, early teens. Ground manners and manners on the cross ties aren’t great but he is perfect under saddle. I actually just heard on Friday night that two instructors have sadly labeled him as an unsafe liability because of his ground manners. The real issue is that becoming a school horse has led to some bad habits. He has learned that because of his size, his beginner/inexperienced riders are scared off when he makes a big fuss on the cross ties. It is unfortunate because what I see is a horse that would really benefit from a consistent, confident rider…not a rider who shows up for their one ride a week that doesn’t want to deal with a problem horse. The life of a school horse.

When I moved, I was so sad to leave my barn and all the amazing friends I had made there and become accustomed to seeing every week. The family that owns that barn is very near and dear to my heart. I love going down to MA to see them. When I was going through my divorce, I actually lived in one of the apartments on the property while we sorted out housing. These people are seriously solid people. I was also sad to leave Beau, wondering what the next horse I would find to ride would be like.

I ended up hitting the jackpot. I found a small quiet farm near the new house and the horse I have been riding since September is named Chandraki. He is a Georgian Grande; an interesting breed that is half friesian, a quarter saddlebred, and a quarter draft, in Draki’s case his grandfather was a percheron. He is safe, likes the ring and the trails, and is a beautiful mover. The catch is he can be lazy, and he can be a bully. He has really forced me to be an assertive rider that uses spurs and a dressage whip when he isn’t listening. This assertiveness has been tough for me, a person who usually shies away from confrontation. Not surprisingly, this new attitude while riding has bled in my life a little, making me a more confident and assertive person. When faced with adversity, I can’t help but think, hey, I pay someone to fight with a 1000+ lb animal….what do you got!?

I have learned so much about riding, and really myself from riding Chandraki. This weekend we took a lesson with Adam Cropper, a dressage trainer who helped Chandraki’s owner when she first got him. It was a really great ride for us, and a great confidence booster for me. Oh and of course Chandraki is so handsome and extremely respectful yet affectionate on the ground…so there’s that 🙂 His owner has used him for eventing as well as fox hunting, and he has a real talent for dressage. I am hoping he will be one of the best parts of 2017. We’ll see!

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UNH Spring Eventing Trials!

This past Saturday I packed up the pup and we headed to the UNH spring eventing trials to support one of my good friends. She moved up a level this year to training from novice which is very exciting, and this was her and her horse, Clover’s, first outing of the year. It was a beautiful day, sun shining with a breeze, and we got there in time for my favorite part of supporting a friend at an eventing trial- walking the cross country course!! Cross country is the 3rd phase of an eventing trial where horse and rider take off into fields, woods, and water features. They are timed and assessed time penalties depending on how far off they were from the optimal time. You can also get penalties in cross country if your horse refuses a jump- 20 for the first refusal, 40 for the second, and then if you get a 3rd refusal on a jump, its elimination. If the rider falls at a jump, its elimination….in the levels below training, if you fall and land on your feet you can hop back on but its 65 penalties!

Cross country features are really cool. Logs, drops, banks, ditches, water jumps, roll tops, oxers with tree/shrub brushes, coops…some that are a direct straight shot to get to, some that you have to turn into, all really interesting & challenging. Some are really fun too, like jumping a giant duck or something like that. The horses cover some serious ground typically, and they are usually ridden at a gallop, maybe a bit slower for the lower levels, like you might see people decelerate coming up to a jump to prepare. Riders need to condition themselves and their horses by schooling cross country at different places, so when its time to do it at an event, all that hard work can pay off! My friend did an amazing job, she came in 4th!! She did a great job in dressage, double clear (no time or jump faults) in stadium jumping,  and no penalties in xcountry. Mizpah had an awesome time walking with us and socializing with dogs, horses, and people. She loves Clover, walks right next to her like she is Clover’s escort. Her affinity for horses is actually part of her breeding. Dalmatians were bred to travel with horse drawn vehicles, hence their rep as fire house and Budweiser dogs. Mizpah naturally coaches when she is with horses. Here are some pics from the day, enjoy!!

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Dogs heading to walk xcountry!

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Pretty cool water feature!! The jump leading up to this is a ditch!

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Mizpah walking with Clover ❤

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Jack Pack!

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Mizpah watching for the next horse!

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Clover going through the water!

UNH has a very popular equine science program. The cross country course is right on campus, like some buildings actually have a view out their window of a jump! The dressage arenas and the jumping arena were all very close too which is nice for horses. They are actually fundraising to improve their cross country course for 2017, so it will be fun to go back next year and see the changes. Hope you all had a lovely weekend!!

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Volunteering for my barn’s spring two-phase!

This past weekend was the spring two-phase at the barn that I ride at. A two-phase is dressage and stadium jumping, the third phase that will be added in for future shows is cross country. I usually volunteer to scribe for the dressage judge which is really fun, but definitely hard work. You write furiously, trying to make sure that you get every comment and score as the dressage judge watches the dressage test. Our judge for this show was Lainey Johnson, and she is awesome. I love scribing for her because I learn so much, and she is just a lovely lady to hang out with too. The shows at my barn are schooling shows, so they are affordable, and just great opportunities to get some showing experience at a very low key, informal event. Once dressage finished up, I helped score the stadium jumping rounds. The spring show is the first show for many horses and riders coming out of winter hibernation, so its a great step to prepping for the rest of the summer shows. We only had 3 errors in dressage, and only one person came off in stadium. There were quite a few refusals in stadium, but in a schooling show the rider can finish even if they get eliminated and you can pay for an extra round and try the course again too. Its supposed to be a positive learning experience 🙂 Here are some pics from the day!

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View of the dressage arena from the dressage shack

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Bigger view of the dressage arena

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Stadium jumping

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Nice view from our jumping arena huh?

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I loved this palomino horse, oh man, looked just like the Barbie horse figurine I had so many years ago. 

Even if you are just getting into horseback riding and you aren’t ready or can’t afford to show, volunteering at shows can be a really fun way to learn and get involved. You get to know people from your barn and that camaraderie can really be a positive part of your time spent at the barn. Saturday was just a beautiful day too, can’t complain about getting to spend a lot of it outside watching children and adults chasing their dreams on horseback 🙂 Have I inspired anyone to get out there and start riding or just volunteer their time at a barn? I hope so, riding and spending time at the barn has saved me from many a bad day.

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Aiken, SC Part 2: Sunday Polo!

Steeplechases, foxhunting, eventing, trailriding, and polo; all the horse activities make for an equestrian oasis in Aiken, SC. There are so many options for places to ride in the area, and unlike some equestrian paradises in the winter, Aiken has a pretty happening social scene! The Willcox, Malia’s, Tako Sushi, Aiken Brewing Company, Locals….so many great places for dinner and drinks!

Anyways, back to the horses! If you have seen equestrian sports in the olympics on TV, you have probably seen some large, athletic horses! Jumpers, eventing, and dressage has lots of warmbloods, maybe some thoroughbreds. Maybe you have watched some horse racing and seen the incredibly graceful and powerful thoroughbreds, or you have seen the gentle giants, clydesdales, pulling the Budweiser wagon in a parade. Polo ponies are literally a different breed! They are smaller, stocky, but nimble and athletic. The ones that we rode, and many like them, are from Argentina. They are bred from mixes of ranch ponies (quarterhorses), and thoroughbreds. They call a quarterhorse/tb mix an appendix horse.

Polo ponies are trained to accept being up close and personal with other horses. They must have a quick stop, quick turn, and quick acceleration. With that though, they also must be a quiet mount, that at the end of the chukker, will walk quietly back to the line. They are smart, aware of the ball, mallet, and other players. My friend that was down in Aiken for the winter had her horses in a paddock next to seven happy little polo ponies. The amazingly talented exercise rider for these ponies took my friends and I out to play a little polo on Sunday. This man typically will ride one of the ponies, and “pony” (tieing other horses to the one you are riding) the other 6 to exercise all 7 at once…amazing. Here are some pics from the adventure:

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Just before we headed back, ponies were awesome, noone fell off, all is well 🙂

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The ride back to the stables from the polo field. Don’t we look so official carrying our mallets??

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Post polo pony picture (P.P.P.P)

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Always nice to come back greeted by a cute horse face! His name is Guy 🙂

We had an awesome time. My horse’s name was Big Mayo, even though he was pretty small. We had a short little trail ride to the polo field, then did some warming up and practicing hitting the ball with the mallet, and then we played a little game. I have taken a couple polo lessons, but this was the longest amount of time that I had that mallet, and man, my right hand/arm is still sore!!

It was the perfect way to end the weekend, laughing and riding with my best girls. Just a couple more weeks until my wedding! Despite the fun, I was happy to come home to my lovely fiance and pup who were hard at work finishing last minute things up for the big day!! 🙂

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Valentine’s Day is comin up fast!

So Valentine’s Day is coming up, like next weekend!! I don’t know if its the lack of wintry weather up here in New England or what, but it just doesn’t feel like February around here! From my person, I don’t expect a big gift for V-day. We do small things, like <$50, because really its more about just showing you were thinking about the other person than the price tag. Valentine’s Day is a holiday where I really do think its the thought that counts. I also don’t think that there should be this pressure to pick out a very romantic or sentimental gift. If you have an idea for something like that, then run with it, but I know that for me, it will be the dinner we have after exchanging our little gifts that will be romantic. Ok, enough of my gift philosophy.

Here are a few things I have been checking out!

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This long sleeve tee from Vineyard Vines for $49.50 is so cute and perfect another holiday we all love, St. Patrick’s Day! The front has a little pocket with the same whale/shamrock on it.

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I am always on the lookout for great bracelets. Many of you who read and follow along on instagram know that I love the KJP bracelets. This navy horse bracelet is from Hampton Ivy, an Etsy shop that has an awesome instagram and great products. I have fallen in love with this bracelet because it is handmade here in the US of A, the materials- leather and antiqued gold pewter, and the price is an affordable $26!! I love the horse head, but I also loved the one with a lobster and with anchors on it!

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I am in love with this mountains hat from Harding Lane for $35.  Hats, belts, key fobs, flasks….labradors, nautical flags, horses, fish, and ducks….needlepoint is a world of preppy variety. Some of the names in needlepoint are Smathers and Branson, Tucker Blair, and Harding Lane. Being from Massachusetts, I am more inclined to check out Tucker Blair and Harding Lane from Boston and Dedham respectively. Smathers and Branson originated in Maryland. That being said, the way that I have organized my needlepoint vendors is to say that if I buy a needlepoint hat, it will come from Harding Lane (they tout themselves as the original needlepoint hat) and if I need to buy a needlepoint belt, I will get it at Tucker Blair. Speaking of belts, Tucker Blair is currently doing a sale on retired styles.

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Finally….this tote from LLBean. You didn’t think I would have a wishlist that left out LLBean did you?? The totes from LLBean come in different sizes, different colors, open top or zip, shorter or longer handles. I would really like a medium tote with the longer handles which is $29.95.  You can also monogram them for $8….and something I have just recently realized is you can put up to 10 characters on there. SO if you want your name, awesome….if you want BEACHBUM….you could do that too….. LOVE&SAND…..ACKBOUND…..SUNGODDESS…DRINKSAT5…SUNSETLOVE…POOLSIDE…so many possibilities!

I won’t say too much about what I am getting my fiance for Valentine’s Day….BUT this is a “cool” thing to get for a guy who likes to have a couple beers on the weekend. This brand, Arnold Steiner, has beautiful menswear items, and I have been checking out this pocket square to get monogrammed for my fiance’s wedding tux (its a gray tux with a navy bow tie).

For Valentine’s Day, we like to cook a nice meal together instead of going out. This year we are going to do something including marinated grass fed beef and homemade tiramisu! What are you planning for Valentine’s Day next weekend? A galentine’s day party? Maybe brunch on Saturday? Staying in watching your favorite classic romance movie? Anyone having an anti-Valentine’s Day party?? I went to one of those back in college….flowers spraypainted black….a broken heart cake, it was actually really fun!!

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Sunny morning at the barn

This weekend was beautiful in Massachusetts. We are in a weird warm spell here…snow is pretty much melted and we have been in the 40s/50s. Last year at this time I believe we had 3 feet of snow on the ground!!!

Saturday AM, I had such a nice ride with my buddy Sterling. Sterling is a quarter horse and has been used in lessons since I was at the barn. He had an owner who was in college and came maybe a couple times a year to see him, and finally last year he was pretty much gifted to the barn. He has some costly medical issues, melanomas & PSSM. He has had a couple surgeries to help with melanomas and he is on some supplements/meds for the PSSM. He is a huge asset to the school because he is totally capable of just slowly walking around in circles with a beginner, or packing around a small jumper course with a more advanced rider. He has typical quarter horse issues for dressage because he is lower in front than behind, but my dressage lessons with him are so rewarding. You can see such a huge difference from a horse who is expecting to just carry someone around for an hour to a forward horse using his muscles and stretching his topline. Dressage type exercises are great for all horses, sort of like power yoga.

Here are a few pics from my lovely morning at the barn!

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Sterling 🙂 , his show name is Shades of Gray

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View out the window of the indoor to the dressage arena

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View of the original portion of the farmhouse where owners live. The home has been added onto and renovated, its absolutely gorgeous.

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Oh just a quaint little gazebo on your way to the paddocks

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View of paddocks and off to the left where that trail goes is the cross country course

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Alfonse, or Alf for short, arguably the cutest little pony. He was so cute snoozing in the sun, couldn’t help but take his pic!

Friday night, I went out to the Red Raven in Acton with my fiance and his coworkers for some drinks. They have an awesome little loungy area when you first walk in and I couldn’t resist snapping this fireplace. The brickwork is so unique and fun.

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Saturday afternoon, I headed out on a NH brewery tour in the Londonderry/Derry area that finished in Nashua…so fun, I will fill you all in tomorrow! I can’t believe today is February!! How was your weekend?? Tell me all about it! Enjoy the day everyone!

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Great plans for Elvis’s once abandoned Circle G Ranch

In the spring of 2009, I went on a pretty epic road trip from LA where my friend was studying for a semester back to Boston. We stopped in Las Vegas, Amarillo TX, stopped to see a friend at NATO flight school in OK, went to Memphis to see Beale St and Graceland, and then a very unremarkable night in Roanoke VA.

I never considered myself to be a big Elvis fan, but my parents are, and going to Graceland, you just can’t help but feel connected to him and his story. He was so talented, so trusting and giving, lonely in his fame, depressed, practically bankrupt when he died. Graceland is actually very underwhelming by today’s standards for celebrity homes. The pool was almost small? One passion that I share with Elvis was his love for horses. There will always be horses at Graceland. I will write about them sometime, they are lovely. His birthday was January 8th, he would have been 81, what sort of man would he be now I wonder?

While many people know about Graceland, not many know about Circle G Ranch. Circle G Ranch is 231 acres in Horn Lake, MS. Elvis and  Priscilla spent part of their honeymoon there in 1967, and many close to Elvis say this was where he spent his happiest times. There is a home on the property, and their friends had trailers that they kept on the property. They went trail riding, swimming, and had great bbqs. The property has passed hands a couple times; the ranch house was actually a floral shop for a time. The buildings have fallen into disarray and last year it seems a group capable of really bringing the property back to life finally purchased it.

Anyone like that show about life after people? Here are some pics of the beautiful Circle G Ranch before the renovation.

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The modest ranch house that Elvis and Priscilla shared

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The bridge over the lake on the property built by Elvis

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BBQ Pit, one side has an E, the other a P in the bricks

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Old stables fallen into disrepair, broken down truck included

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View of the storage and 55 foot tall cross

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The swimming pool, probably my favorite photo subject

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The diving boards at the pool where I’m sure much fun was had

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Elvis at Circle G Ranch on his beloved Rising Sun

Walking through this property must be like walking back through time. Like Elvis and Priscilla were going to come into view any minute on their horses, ready for a dip in the pool and some burgers. I can’t wait to see how the renovations go. Here’s the proposed map of features.

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They plan to bring horses back to property for therapeutic riding for disabled children. There will be seating, a stage, and a water feature in the lake. They will hold shows for the community, focusing on veterans and their families. They want the land to be a tribute to what it used to be by renovating the bridge, the cross, and ranch house. At the same time, the new features will help populations that Elvis cared about: children, veterans, and the disabled. More information about the plans for Circle G Ranch can be found here.

Want more info on Circle G Ranch? This guy, Phil Arnold has three awesome posts about it, lots of photos and anecdotes. I loved reading them.

Elvis’s Circle G Ranch-Part 1

Elvis’s Circle G Ranch-Part 2

Elvis’s Circle G Ranch- Part 3

Whether you are an Elvis fan, a horse enthusiast, or an equestrian, it’s easy to relate to a man, no matter who he is, and his love for trail riding…setting out into the quiet on your trusted horse and experiencing nature as you only can from horseback. He was an American cowboy, a veteran, and a rock n roll icon. While many would remember Elvis in their favorite movie, or on stage performing, I will choose to remember him riding. His horses never asked him for more than attention, a patch of grass, and water….how many people in his life could say that?

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Favorite Christmas Tree Ornaments

I am going to keep my writing brief because I definitely fell off my horse tonight into the wall of the indoor. We had just done a jump perfectly after many tries and he bucked while I was leaning forward and off I went. I’m sore, but ok. Got back on for a little while so no one starts to think that bucking me off is a good way to end a ride, but I will be rocking some IB profen, a heating pad, and lots of hot cocoa tonight to recover. I have a red line on my back from where I made contact with the bottom of the wall….I will be fine haha.

This post is about some of my favorite ornaments. I hope that you enjoy them!!

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An older ornament from my parents, the swan boats in the common

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Santa in his workshop, one of my favorites from my childhood

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One of my favorites from my Breyer’s ornament collection

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My Barbie ballerina for Nutcracker season

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Another great one from my Breyer’s collection, how many little girls have asked for a pony for Christmas? 🙂

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This one is a gift from my mom, love it

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Rowing on the Charles in Cambridge ornament, perfect for a tree belonging to two rowers!

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I have the whole set of Rudolph characters, the Bumble, Hermey, Yukon, Rudolph, and Santa.

I hope everyone’s holiday preparations are going well. I had a big food shopping trip tonight for the weekend into next week….it was painful and slow moving. Of course I ran into a student while I was limping through the supermarket still covered in dirt haha, oh well. Happy Friday everyone, one week til Christmas!!

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Weekend Recap: Polo, trails, & sushi

Friday night, I had an awesome jumping lesson with Dutch, a very forward horse. We rocked around a course of gates and cross rails at the canter which is a huge step up for me. It was so fun. I still have a lot to work on though, more bend at the hip over the jump, better release of the reins on the horse’s mouth, and we have to get better at picking up the right lead to the next jump.

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Saturday morning I went back to Stage Hill Polo for another lesson. We played a little 2 on 2 scrimmage, and it was so fun. My teammate Lydia got a goal, and I got a goal…..and then I sadly got a goal for the other team. I was trying to hit it back away from the goal, but my own backswing hit it in the goal. Steve told me this happens all the time hahaha. This is it for me though, I will maybe go back in the spring/summer to play some more polo. Stage Hill Polo does take part in a winter arena league that  I was invited to play in but I have three afternoons of class this spring so its just not going to work out right now. I am going to be lucky to get a practice ride in on a day that I don’t have class at my own barn. This is Salsa even though I actually got to ride Jet, one of Steve Rudolph’s horses. Most of these horses are heading down to Palm Beach for the winter this week- lucky huh?

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Saturday afternoon I took the pup for a trail run, a nice 4 miler, and it was just beautiful out. Then Saturday evening, the fiancé and I headed out with a couple friends for all you can eat sushi up in Nashua NH. It…was…amazing. I love good sushi and we definitely got our money’s worth. My favorites are the spicy tuna roll, spider maki with the fried soft-shell crab, and any of those specialty rolls with the crab meat on top. I had a nice light Sapporo with my delicious sushi while a couple others shared a scorpion bowl- doesn’t taste like alcohol at all, super dangerous 🙂

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Mizpah out on the trail

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Don’t shoot the dalmatian! #notadeer

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So much sushi….arm party from KJP and Charming Charlie’s 🙂

Sunday was a rainy & cold day here in Massachusetts. We made bacon and eggs for breakfast and then later on made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, so good!!!

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I have a very short work week this week- just Monday & Tuesday. I am so looking forward to seeing friends & family for Thanksgiving. What kind of trouble did you all get up to this past weekend? Anyone have any good black Friday sales they are planning to hit up? I will be opting outside Friday with REI hiking with family and the pup, but I might have to take a peak at some online sales 😉

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