Saturday, December 27, 2008


Nearly 18" of melting snow and 4" of rain equals record flooding! The rain hasn't stopped but the barn has had enough.

After running the pumps for a half hour, the floorboards of
the upper barn are only floating 4" above the ground.

Two of the three barns at my stable are flooded. Fortunately for Limerick, she is in one of the three dry stalls at the barn! Days like this make me happy Lim doesn't have a run.

In the middle of the mess, she had her feet done in the relatively dry aisle outside her stall. They're looking good!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Looking behind, looking ahead

2009 is almost upon us. It seems like it was yesterday when we had the great Y2k crisis, huh? Just like that, almost a decade come and gone.

In 2009, Limerick will be 18 and I will be 29. Lim doesn't look or act 18, and I certainly don't feel 29 (although I have sprouted many grays since last fall, and the lines are beginning to show beneath my eyes). On many days, I feel 15. But there are days when I feel 70, and the weight of experience and understanding presses upon my very organs. I guess it's true that stress makes the hair go gray.

2008 is officially the worst year of my life. I thought 2007 was bad, but oh no, the god of bad luck had much more in store for me. So good riddance, 2008.

I have never been one to make resolutions. Why use the start of a new year as an excuse to do or change something? Just do it now--whether now is December 26th, January 1st, or July 1st. It doesn't make a difference. Making a promise (which is what a resolution is) just makes it that much more disappointing when you break it. And if you're disappointed, you won't try again.

That said, I do set goals. They are not concrete goals, but goals I would like to attain. If I fail to do so, then there's always 2010.

I have three goals:

1) To show Limerick. I'll start with "green as grass" dressage classes, and if she does well, move up a bit. No pressure.

2) To get paid for my writing. It doesn't matter whether it's $10 or $1,000. Any figure will do. I do write for a living--I write reports for a laboratory--but I will not count this. I have had pieces published but never for pay. For once, I'd like to see what it's like to find a check in my mailbox signed by Anynamehere publisher.

3) To train for a marathon. I'll aim low and train for a half-marathon (13.1 miles). At the most, I was running 20 miles a week and my single longest run was 8 miles. I finished in good spirits and was ready for more the next day so I don't think it'll be too hard. If my training progresses better than expected then I will shoot for a full marathon. I'm also hoping to run regular 7:45 or 7:30-minute miles by the end of the year. That's multiple miles, with each mile run in seven minutes, thirty seconds.

Thank you, mom and dad and husband, for the new running gear to start off the year with. My parents got me a reflective vest for night running and a runner's headlamp. My husband took me shopping for a new pair of running shoes (I choose a pair of Asics Gel Kayano-14s) and bought me a subscription to Runner's World.

I'll write about my running a bit more in the blog. I have said running is a muse of mine, and it's true. Maybe I'll start the year off by writing about how I started running.

To my dad: I'm glad you are feeling better and I hope you stay better! I love you!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No shavings!, part two

My husband made it home fine last night. In an uncharacteristically domestic move, I had dinner waiting for him.

I can make two things well: salad and breakfast.

Wisely deciding my man probably wouldn’t be in the mood for lettuce after being stuck in his car for 6.5 hours, I scrambled three eggs with a dollop of butter, toasted two slices of wheat bread (and added another dollop of butter, as well as some strawberry jam), and cut up a banana and mixed it with some blueberries. He loved it!

The lack of shavings at the barn has lit a fire beneath my desire to move to Kentucky. For financial reasons, we can’t do it now. But we have set a semi-concrete date—June 2012. I hope to have my debt paid off in July 2010, so that will give me two years to save like a madwoman. Also, hopefully by then the IRA we were going to use as a down payment will have recovered. Last I checked, it had gone from $12k to $9k. Through savings, I want to pad the IRA when the economy is better. The rest of the savings will go towards the actual move, necessities for the new property (including a horse trailer!), and other odds and ends. We may get another horse a month or so before the move so Limerick has an equine friend to be with during the move and on the new property. Either way, it being Kentucky, I’m sure it won’t be hard to arrange for a new horse to meet Limerick when she arrives!

In the meantime, I have a Plan B in case the situation at my current barn goes way downhill. But Plan B is a half-hour away without traffic. It is a good barn, and the board is a bit cheaper, but it won’t be cheaper overall if Limerick is so far away (I estimate I save $100-200 a month on gas with her being only a mile down the road), and I know my anxious brain will always worry whether she is getting fed her third meal in the evening, whether she has equine buddies, whether I should remove her blanket or add another layer. Right now she is so close that not only can I visit her without a thought towards time, traffic, or road conditions, but also I do not need to worry about these things. You can’t put a price on peace of mind.

And so, I want to move onto horse property because the only perfect barn is the one in your backyard, after all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No shavings!

Maybe you remember the drama that revolved around my barn running out of hay in June.

Well, now they're out of shavings. They actually ran out a little over a week ago but it was stated that they would temporarily use bagged shavings until the next truckload of the regular stuff arrived.

Okay, fine by me.

But to my horror I found Limerick standing in a totally bare stall yesterday. The stall mat was completely stripped of shavings, save a few strays along the edges of the stall. A couple piles of manure and a puddle of pee crowded one corner of the stall.

What the *%&#?

I cleaned the stall out and spread the old hay over the stall mat and gave Limerick fresh hay to eat. It was getting late and I didn't know what else to do.

This morning my husband said he would drive to Bob's Salt and Feed (my feed store) after work and pick up some bags of shavings. He gets off work two hours before me and under ideal circumstances, would arrive at Bob's before they closed at 6pm. Aww!

"Okay, but we're supposed to get a lot of snow later. Are you sure?" I said, picturing my husband becoming frustrated in snow-clogged traffic. He works in Mettawa, which is quite a long distance from Bob's.

"I'm sure, I'll do it!" he said.

Cut to 7pm and my husband has been in snow-clogged traffic for almost four hours. He is nowhere near Bob's.

"Just go home!" I text him. "We'll get the shavings tomorrow."

I love Limerick with all my heart but her having a proper bed for the night isn't worth hubby spinning his car out on the highway.

But Bob left the shavings out, hubby texted back. They r covered but dont want to leave em out.

"They won't care, give them a call in the morning. They'll understand. We'll get them tomorrow!"

Hubby insists that he can make it out to West Chicago.

At this point, I'm standing in Petsmart surrounded by jumbo bags of pine shavings. A Petsmart employee is eyeing my uber-muddy, snowy field boots with their (enormous, sharp!) 1/2" stubby spurs. Thanks to a friend's tip, I rushed over to Petsmart as soon as I was done riding to purchase some XXXL bags of small animal bedding.

"No don't worry about it! I got the shavings!" I text him.

Too late he texts back. I'm on my way.

"Just leave them in your car then, we'll take care of them tomorrow," I say.

I skid and slide my little Jetta back to the barn.

The hearty paw and long, satisfying pee Limerick took after I spread the shavings around was definitely worth $37.14.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The plow

The ice of Monday evening gave away to warmer rains yesterday morning, which turned to ice again as they day progressed and temperatures dropped. I can run on ice (actually, it is easier to run than walk on ice) but if the world is one giant skating rink, it is not the best idea to go for a run. I would rather miss one day of running than six weeks due to a broken leg!

When I stepped outside on my way home from work and saw the inch of fresh snow on the ground, I knew I had to run when I got home.

Black Under Armor winter running tights. Sports bra. Gray Nike sweat-wicking longsleeve shirt. Gray generic t-shirt. “Philadelphia Eagles”-green New Balance faux fleece 1/3-zip shirt. Dirty white New Balance 826’s. White Under Armor winter running hat. Black reflective Nike running gloves. My old sports watch (so amazed the cheap thing is still working!). My key ring.

My hearing aid screeches feedback into my ear as I pull my hat over my head. I press a finger against it, adjusting it through my hat.

I wear the largest key ring over my right middle finger, all 1,007 keys loosely held in my palm. I have been running like this for as long as I can remember. On the very rare occasion that I don’t need my keys, I feel naked. My right hand feels too light. When I still lived in Chicago, they offered a measure of comfort. I knew that if I couldn’t outrun an attacker, I could drive the keys into his eyes as hard as I could.

I decide to run around the apartment complex. It is exactly one half of a mile around so it is a brainless way to know how far you are going. It is incredibly boring but on a dark, lousy night like this I have no choice.

(I terribly miss running in the city. In the city, there are a million different routes to take, each one well to decently-lit by streetlights. Out in the suburbs, I have taken some after-dark runs blind, counting on the sensation of the sidewalk beneath my feet to tell me that I am going the right way. The only route guaranteed to be well-lit is around my apartment complex. Boring!)

The wind is driving the snow sideways. Cold needles on my face. Millions of driving white flakes of snow reflect in the beams of soft yellow light radiating from the parking lot lights. I notice the semi-fresh plow marks in the parking lot. I look for the snow plow and see it on the other side of a row of parked cars. It is a red Dodge Ram with a red plow. No yellow strobe light. In contrast to the slow, awkward cars sliding into the parking lot from Warrenville Road, the plow moves quickly and neatly as it pushes the snow before it.

I start my run away from the wind. On the first lap, wary of ice beneath the snow, I am cautious of where I place my feet. When I run into the wind, the stinging snow goes into my eyes and I pull my Under Armor hat down tight and lower my eyes. One lap passes and I check my watch. 4 minutes, 40 seconds. Not bad. Before winter began, I was working on steady 8-minute miles. I know from experience that I will emerge from the winter faster and stronger than ever. Nothing conditions you like months of running on snow and ice!

I notice the plow is gone. Since I can't hear it until it is right on top of me, I watch for the subtlest change in light and shadow before me, signs of headlights far behind. My senses are heightened. The slightest change in any type of light, the smallest scent of automotive exhaust or smoke alerts me to a car. Or the plow.

I am on lap two, following my footsteps from lap one, and I see the plow before me. It is perpendicular to me, pushing snow towards the corner I am headed for. It is tireless and graceful and almost beautiful in the falling snow. A workhorse. I cannot see the driver in the shadows of the cab. The plow is a being unto itself.

It quickly turns and moves along the next row of parked cars.

4 minutes, 40 seconds again.

Then 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

By my fourth lap, the driving snow is a comfort to my hot skin. I have not seen the plow for a while. I follow my footsteps of laps one, two and three. Strangely, they are all right next to each other. It looks like a long-strided, six-legged beast of a human passed through.

Light plays on the snow. I slow down. The plow is waiting for me to pass. I stop and wave it on. We acknowledge each other—the plow and the runner, sharing the same parking lot. We are out in the thick of it as other apartment dwellers hurry inside, clutching bags to bodies and hoods tight to faces.

4 minutes, 20 seconds. I stop and walk, cooling off. A part of me wants to run on. The run was short but so sweet. I leave the plow behind and go inside, dusting snow off my clothes and hat.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Skating and riding

It is raining but just cold enough for the rain to turn into ice when it hits the ground. That is one thing I don't like about riding in an indoor arena that is detached from the barn. Sometimes after rides, I open the arena door to freezing rain or a blizzard. I can't hear the wind howling about outside the arena so, other than a couple extra flicks of Limerick's ears, I am oblivious to weather changes as I ride.

Before walking back to the barn with Lim, I told her to tread carefully. I walked slowly and so did she. I think I was more afraid of slipping than her. Field boots and ice don't go well together.

Winter is making Limerick stiff, but after fifteen minutes of walking and trotting on the long rein, then five to ten minutes of light collection and a few strides of cantering, she is ready to go. With each passing week, she grows into the athletic horse that had been in hiding for the past couple years. At the end of rides, she is hardly drawing a deep breath.

Soon, she will be ready for some lessons. Unfortunately! My checking account is not.

At work today, I remembered I have 101 Arena Exercises on my bookshelves somewhere. I think that until I can afford a couple lessons, I will work through the book. Before heading to the barn today, I flipped through it quickly and saw a page dedicated to a leg yield at the canter.

Leg yield at the canter! Lim and I haven't done that in a million years.

And although I felt like I was moving all over the place (but probably wasn't), Lim gave me a couple nice, collected leg yields at the canter. Good girl! I think more than anything, I want lessons so I know I am not bouncing and jerking around like a fool. Reassurance is nice but not worth $50 an hour...right now.

I am finding that the more in-shape Lim becomes, the more my saddle is prone to sliding forward. I added one shim each to the forward pockets on my Mattes correction pad and it helps somewhat, but the saddle still moves forward a bit. Lessons can wait but a saddle fitting session may not.

As I left the barn today, slipping and sliding on the ice in the parking lot, I turned and saw a black horse, loose, confused, skidding around on the ice by the upper barn. In the blue glow of the snow and barn walls, everything glistening with rain and ice, the horse seemed like a dream. And then a woman appeared, spreading her arms, gently herding the horse back into the barn. My heart galloped for two more beats then slowed. Horses and ice don't mix, either.