Remembering Why I Ride

With June on vacation, and me still healing, I figured there wouldn’t be much interesting content to write about. But, since I’m feeling better, I’ve picked up two weekly rides. One on Georgie, and one on Tommy. They’re both different rides (Tommy is an Intermediate eventer who I am just getting conditioning rides on), but I’ve come to enjoy them both a lot.

Today it was 60 degrees out and sunny with no wind when I showed up to ride Georgie. I realized it was the perfect day to ride her out in the jump field. I’m riding Georgie partially for me- so I have something to ride until June returns, but also partially for Georgie. She’s acquired some “I’m ridden by a junior and asked nothing” habits that could probably be schooled a bit.

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Georgie when she realized we were headed away from the arenas and out to the field

So, my plan for today was to work on half halts and not letting her run through turns. We worked on this for a bit. I would execute an S turn and not let her run through the change of direction at the trot. It went pretty well and she began to listen to my aids and do what was being asked.

But, instead of drilling it into her, I decided that since it was so beautiful out, we should probably just enjoy being outside.

I walked Georgie to the edge of the field and her ears flew forward. She knew what was coming. I gently put my leg on and said “canter.”

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The moment she realized half halts and S turns were a thing of the past

And there we were, cantering along the field, on a crisp fall day, in the sunshine. I remembered why I loved this horse.

I love her because I feel safe. I love her because I can canter and just enjoy it. No spooking. No antics. Just wind in her mane and my face. She could go as fast as she wanted and it would be fine. She wasn’t going to run away with me. I was safe, happy, and enjoying everything horseback riding should be.

In my post ride recap I told Sarah what a good time I had, and how nice it was to gallop on my #1 mare. But then couldn’t help myself and launched into how Georgie’s canter is like it was the first day I ever rode her, and how I saw her shorten, shorten, shorten to the jump at the schooling show this weekend, and how a half halt takes a lot of work on her again. She clearly isn’t the mare she was when I stopped riding her, after years of work together.

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I’ve always loved galloping on her

And after I said it, I got upset with myself. Because, really, who cares? She is still the honest horse with so much heart that I fell in love with. Who cares if she isn’t prelim ready? Who cares if she carts a junior around safely but doesn’t look fancy? She is having a good time, and she deserves it.

And those moments where I get to gallop her along the fields in the crisp autumn sunshine? All I need to care about is how lucky I am to still be able to do that.

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Fraggle Friday: Stella Update!

Poor Stella, she just hasn’t gotten the blog attention she deserves.

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To be honest, in the last few weeks, she has really slowed down. More sleeping, less enthusiasm about going for walks.

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It could be she is less enthusiastic to go for a walk when the weather is crap, but she looks so cute in her raincoat shouldn’t she want to show it off?

She still sleeps through the night, as long as you consider night to be over by 4:30 or 5am. The good news is, if she does get up this early, I let her out to potty, she comes back in and goes right back to sleep. So, naturally, I do too…

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She and my cat, Bunny, sleep together like this every night

She really can’t see at all. Especially in the dark. She can see things right in front of her, but that’s about it. Her hearing is hit or miss, she seems to be able to hear high-pitched whistles, but often doesn’t hear me when I come home and I need to make some noise to wake her up.

So, essentially, she’s old.

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Another raincoat pic. This time in the sleet…. ugh

But besides getting older, and the difficulties associated with that, she’s doing pretty well! Walking and hop/running, no more seizures, and she is just as opinionated as ever.

So, naturally, I am just trying to enjoy every moment of it.

 

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Back in the Saddle, Sort of

My tailbone has been feeling much better, after three long weeks. I’m still not able to go for runs, but hiking, and sleeping, and even sitting, for the most part, are pain free! So, naturally, the next step was to see how riding would feel.

And, who better to get back in the saddle with than my #1 mare.

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Yup, this is my #1 mare…. letting June know she’s a far #2. (recycled photo from this summer)

I was so so so excited to ride Georgie. Maybe because she’s my #1, but also maybe because I hadn’t ridden in THREE WEEKS and that is FAR too long.

I of course picked the one rainy day we have had here in months, and I arrived to find Georgie looking like this:

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I have not missed this.

But all was forgiven once I got on her back. Things at the walk were not comfortable. So, I kind of perched on her back and really engaged my lower back muscles to keep me out of the saddle. I was in my jump tack, as I knew sitting deeply and using my seat was not going to be happening.

The trot was much better. I was able to work on Georgie a little bit, as it is obvious she has thoroughly enjoyed not being asked much recently. She seems to have forgotten about half halts and when I executed one she responded with “What was that?” To which I gave a stronger half halt and she said “I don’t know what that is.”

But, because it was Georgie, she soon remembered, and we had a really really lovely ride.

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I like to believe we looked like this….

There was no way I was going to canter. Georgie’s canter feels much like a washing machine on the agitation cycle, and while I had made huge progress with it back in the day, the thought of riding that with a sore tailbone seemed like a really bad idea. So, we did lots of trot work, and listening to aids work. She was exactly what I needed for my first ride back, and also what I needed as a break from a baby horse. My hope is to hop on her once a week and remember that I can, indeed, ride.

So, slowly but surely, I think I’ll be ready for June to return in a couple of weeks and for us to get back to work!

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The New Trailer

I sold my last trailer almost exactly a year ago. I sold it out of necessity. It wasn’t going to work with June, and seeing her climb out the window through the manager, while driving down the highway at 55 mph, was something I never ever wanted to see again.

And, as it seems to happen, I wasn’t really looking for another trailer. I wasn’t NOT looking, but lets say I wasn’t actively shopping. But then one day, driving by my veterinarian’s office, I saw a trailer for sale. I pulled over to check it out, and it was pretty much exactly what I’ve always wanted as a bumper pull.

  • Two horse,
  • Straight load (no mangers!)
  •  huge dressing room.
  • Aluminum
  • a ramp
  • Extra tall and extra wide.

It’s a Trail Et New Yorker Eventer (which is pretty coincidental since I’m an eventer from NY…). Floor boards are in great condition, mats are in great condition and it is structurally in great condition. There are 6 windows in the horse area which means lots of great ventilation too! As an added dork bonus, the trailer originally belonged to Adrienne Lyle (Olympic dressage rider) and there is a dustpan in the dressing room with A.Lyle on it…

I knew the seller and knew she took good care of her stuff. But, sadly, the price tag attached to it was out of my budget.

Now, before we move on  I realize that some of you are throwing your palm to your forehead and asking why in the world I got another straight load. Well, let me start by saying, I grew up with straight load trailers. I personally believe horses travel most comfortably in straight load trailers. And, this particular trailer, doesn’t have mangers. If June wants to jump around, there is nowhere for her to go. I firmly believe had I bought a slant load with mangers, she still could potentially misbehave. This trailer is also incredibly airy and spacious. It’s nothing like my last trailer besides being a straight load.

Ok, so back to it being out of my budget…

I tried to forget about the trailer. But I wasn’t do a good job of it. After seeing it sit for quite some time I decided to call the owner and ask if they would accept a lower, much lower, price.

And, um, they accepted!

Since I was buying it locally, they let me take it for a test drive. Obviously I wanted to make sure June would be ok in it. So, expecting some sort of trouble, I asked a friend to help me load her, and decided to bring  her bestie, Georgie, with us. I figured June could see how calm Georgie was, and maybe emulate that….

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Georgie got to eat out of the manager hay bag and she really approved of it

I loaded Georgie first, and she immediately got to eating. June typically aborts on the first try at loading, so I was prepared for that. Especially since she hadn’t ever done a ramp. But, she gave it a sniff and then walked right in.

Once I closed up the back, she stood in the trailer and just looked out the door. I closed the door and waited to hear what would happen. No sound so I looked in the window. She was just munching her hay.

So, I hopped in the truck and hoped for the best.  As we drove around I didn’t see any trailer swinging. My truck pulled it well, and  because it is so long, the seller told me she had some stabilizer bars she uses with it and I could have if I purchased it.  A 15 minute drive down the highway and I was beginning to believe it was going to be a good fit for June.

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June did NOT get a manger hay bag, but instead got a hay bag by her head….

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Georgie looked adorable in it, which is important too…

Once home, I opened the door to June’s stall and she was just hanging out. Standing there without a care in the world. YAY! She wasn’t anxious to get out and politely let me untie her and get her butt bar down. She backed out carefully, but once she realized there was a ramp, took normal steps backwards.

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Rear view. So tall and roomy

And so, I decided to make the purchase. I hope to do lots of short trips with June at first, but the good news is, it can easily be converted to a box stall, so if she wants more room, and is naughty about the chest bar, I’ll just convert it to a box stall.

I’m excited to start getting accessories, too. I’ve already purchased a hay net, but also want a water tank for the dressing room, and probably trailer eyes.

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So happy and calm while I walked around taking pics…

I’ve never had a trailer with a dressing room, so am SO excited. There are FOUR windows in the tack room, so I am TOTALLY going to be sleeping in there at shows. It will definitely fit me, my sleeping pad and the dogs. Plus, I can get a fan in there if needed and maybe some curtains for the windows if I totally want to dork out.

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It’s really hard to take pics of dressing rooms

 

Anyway, I’m super excited and can’t wait to go pick up June and get her traveling in it. In the meantime, I’ll just stare at it lovingly.

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Fraggle Friday: Fall Hikes

Let’s be honest. I don’t live in Idaho because it is convenient to get…anywhere. I live here because it looks like this out my back door.

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We had one of the most beautiful September’s in memory and I made it my mission to get out on some hikes.

It’s a bit tougher to just get out and go these days. I need to find someone to let Stella out mid day, as most of these hikes take all day. But once I have her needs covered, I allow myself to just get out there and enjoy it.

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If baby monkey is happy, I’m happy

Because, there is a lot to enjoy

Alpine lakes are probably my most favorite. (And Siri’s too!) The color of the water is unbelievable and it is so quiet and stunning

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This hike was an 11 miler. But it was well worth having tired legs the next day.

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And one of the most iconic hikes in our area takes us to a forest service cabin way out in the mountains.

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Siri leading the way

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On the roof someone painted “The Higher You Get,The Higher You Get.”

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Sadly you can see the smoke is making things hazy. But it’s still pretty

So, Siri and I, and friends, got out there. And I am so glad we did! Every once in a while I appreciate a reminder as to why I love it here so much.

 

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June’s Unexpected Vacation

About 3 months ago Sarah laid this on me:

“I think it would be good for June to get some time off at the end of the season.”

To which I responded:

“What? Why? Isn’t that what ALL of last winter was??????”

To which Sarah explained that she had a big summer where her baby brain was introduced to so many new things. It would be great for her to be able to process that, and doesn’t she deserve to have some time off?

And I thought, as I always do… What Would Denny (Emerson) Do? See I try to live by the WWDD motto as I feel he brings horses along so thoughtfully. And, well, Mr Emerson would definitely give June some time off.

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Love this face so much!

So, I looked at some dates and figured I would send her off to her breeder for a month in November. She could romp and play with her friends, and she wouldn’t be close enough that I would be tempted to go bother her.

But then I injured my tailbone. And decided to rethink things. As lovely as it was having Sarah put rides on her, I didn’t want to have her unridden by me for a month or so, and then have her go away for a month.

So, I reworked my plans and June got an early vacation. Of course, I was super bummed. There were two really fun schooling shows coming up in October and I was considering taking her to her first recognized event in November. But, since I can’t seem to stay in the saddle, those would all be off the table for now.

So, this past weekend, I made the 10 hour round trip drive up to June’s breeder. She loaded well and travelled great. When we arrived, the equine dentist was there busy working on horses, there was a crap ton of cows bellowing down the street as they moved from one pasture to another, and a gentleman was cutting wood with an electric saw in the parking lot. June just looked around, took it all in, and was like “huh. This look familiar.”

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She enjoyed a post drive roll in the indoor arena

I walked her up to her temporary pen (until horses were released post teeth floats), and as I went to say goodbye to her, she caught sight of her brother. And it was like I no longer existed.

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Ok, mom, see you later. Um, Riffle? Riffle, I’m over here! Can you see me? Can we go play? Um, Riffle, I bet I’m faster than you now. Also, my kick has gotten REALLY good!

Love you too, June.

I’m already sad and miss her a ton. I know it’s only a month, but we had become so bonded, and she would whinny for me whenever she saw me, and she hated having me out of her sight, and and and.

And it will be fine.

Baby horse deserves a vacation and I need to heal so I am strong enough not to fall off again.

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June’s Mini Boot Camp

While I figured out what to do with June in the time that I can’t ride, I decided to keep my weekly lesson with Sarah and have her continue to ride June.

I’m really glad I did as it taught me so much about my pony and Sarah had some amazing progress with her.

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In their first ride together they worked on connection and balance in the walk/trot. June tends to grab the bit and pull. She evades steering. She evades contact. But by the end of the ride she was already lighter in the bridle and making progress. Sarah was looking forward to riding her again 4 days later to see what the mare had retained.

June was more supple, lighter in the contact and more responsive to what Sarah was asking from step one. She had pretty much retained…everything! Sarah was very impressed and moved on to the canter. Which…well.. lets just say our canter needs work. Especially on a 20 meter circle. June roots, evades contact, falls in, and just stops. I knew it would be a mess, so wasn’t surprised when Sarah had some serious work ahead of her.

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June’s two tactics for evading work, well three actually, are 1) grab the bit 2) just stop 3) buck/kick out. She didn’t buck or kick out at all with Sarah. But she grabbed that bit and ignored half halts. And towards the end of the ride, when she was tired, she literally just stopped moving forward and would start going backwards. As you can imagine, when a pro is riding a horse and it does this, it doesn’t go very well for the horse…

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By the end of the ride they had made some good progress and June was tired, but had learned what doesn’t work for her. She got the next day off and I got the following texts:

“I’d like to ride June again. We made such great progress and I’d like to see if she retained what we worked on.”

“June is so smart. Do you know how smart she is? Most horses don’t learn this quickly.”

“I am in love with her trot.”

My trainer wants to put another schooling ride on my horse? She thinks my horse is wicked smart? She loves her trot? Best Day EVER.

And so, after a day off, June had what will be her final ride before going out to pasture for a month while I recover. I had wanted to give her a month off after a summer of intense riding so her baby brain could process it all. I wasn’t expecting to do it now, but the timing will have to change as I don’t want to miss riding her for 4-6 weeks and then give her time off when I am better.

So, Sarah got back on her, and from their first steps together, through the end of the lesson, all I could think was “She looks like a completely different horse than she did two lessons ago.”

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She barely evaded contact. She barely pulled on the bit. She was responsive and forward (maybe too forward sometimes, but who can blame baby horse for trying a new tactic to avoid work) and she listened to Sarah far better than she had before. The ride was short and sweet. June was good, so there was no need for Sarah to drill her. She needs to learn that good behavior results in quitting time coming sooner rather than later.

I was amazed at the progress she had made in such a short time, as was Sarah. She mentioned that June made leaps and bounds beyond what is normally seen or expected. I’m not too surprised that June is a smarty pants. I think it’s why I struggle with her sometimes. I think she has strong opinions, and isn’t afraid to test me. But the good news is, she isn’t resistant to work, I just need to ask correctly. She didn’t kick out once with Sarah, despite being asked to work harder than she ever had. So, why did she buck with me? All I can think is, it’s worked for her in the past, and it’s her go to. I think me hanging off the side of her pulling on her rein, was not fun for her either, so the most rescent kick out, didn’t work that well for her either. I’m sure she’ll buck again. I’m sure I’ll fall off again (but hopefully NOT from a buck) but seeing her work ethic, how, um, FANCY she is when she’s put together and how willing she can be, I know that this journey will be fun and worthwhile.

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Fraggle Friday: Joseph,Oregon

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I took a bit of a vacation this past week. And obviously, the pups came with me! We were headed to Joseph, Oregon for some hiking, hanging out and enjoying being tourists in a beautiful place.

I’d never been to Joseph, but it’s located on a beautiful lake, and when you drive past the lake, the road just ends, about 2 miles later. And at this end of the road, there is more wilderness than you could ever imagine.

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It’s absolutely beautiful. Siri likes to sit at the lake’s edge and take it all in.

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We also went for a fun ride along the old railroad. You essentially bike on a makeshift platform with “train wheels.” I mean, I sat there in pain, while my friend’s biked and kept us moving 🙂

 

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There is also some amazing mini golf. And what I mean is, it’s decorated really well.

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I highly recommend Joseph to anyone in the northwest, if you haven’t already been there. It’s super fun and dog friendly and honestly so so so so so much hiking with amazing views. I didn’t do as much hiking as I hoped because of my aches and pains, so I may just have to go back….

But next time…Siri wants to drive.

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On the drive home, all the dogs were tuckered out. Stella on her princess bed, Siri as close to me as possible, and their friend Rocket wedged in between Siri and the door. All of them happily snoring

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Definitely a good vacation!

 

 

 

When You Can’t Ride, But Your Trainer Can

Thanks to June, I’m not doing much riding. Apparently, when you land directly on your tailbone, it hurts a lot. For a really long time. From what I’ve read, I could be out of commission for up to a month. Now, I don’t know if my tail bone is fractured, or merely bruised, but what I do know, is that doing pretty much anything is incredibly painful.

The good news, bad news, is that 4 days post fall, I was planning on going on vacation. I had been hoping to ride June the day I left, but there would be no riding since I could barely walk. But then, as I limped around, unable to sit, sleep, or do anything else without pain, I realized this was the perfect time to have Sarah ride J for me!

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See that blip up there? That’s Stella. The fact that she is walking that much faster to me can give you an idea of how much pain I am in.

I was so excited to have Sarah ride June. I hadn’t seen anyone ride June since I have been working with her, and I knew she’d get a great schooling ride with Sarah. On the other hand, I was a bit worried. June is far from broke, but what if I had done a crap job starting her so far? What if everything was wrong?

Good news. I hadn’t messed everything up thus far. As I had hoped, Sarah was able to hop on June and show me what she is ready for. What I should expect from her. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but what was great, was that June tried hard and was willing to work hard. I was able to see what we needed to work on, and what I shouldn’t accept from her. (Grabbing the bit is a no no. This sounds obvious, but when you let it happen for long enough you just assume it’s normal).

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June looks so happy despite working hard!

I assume there are going to be a few more June/Sarah rides happening, since I still can’t sit down without wincing. I’m excited to see how much June progresses by the time I am able to hop back on her!

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In the meantime, I’m going to just try to keep running away from those mini golf cougars.

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What Macy Didn’t Teach Me

Macy taught me so much in our year together. She taught me how to ride a bolt. How to ride a spook, How to ride a spook into a bolt.

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Usually I was good at riding the spook bolt. This time not so much

But she didn’t teach me how to ride a buck. Which, at the time, I really appreciated. But now, I could have used some practice.

Because for the third time June bucked me off.

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Yeah, I still love her though

Our lesson was going so well. We were working on connection. We were getting her to flex at the walk and trot. Then, we moved onto the canter. And we worked on some more connection, but also getting her to go forward on a 20 meter circle, and not having her run out her shoulder when we were at the open end of the arena.

She was getting tired. This was to be expected. She hadn’t worked this hard before for this long. She had been great so far. But this time, when I asked her to canter she was so incredibly behind the leg, and I could tell she really did not want to. So, I gave her a whack with the dressage whip.

And she responded with a double barrel kick that unseated me and threw me forward and then sideways. Unseating me freaked her out and she squirted forward. And I started falling off, but growing up a foxhunter taught me to never let go of the reins (who wants to walk miles home??) so I kept pulling on the left rein and she freaked out and well, I fell on my ass.

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When I stood up, there was Georgie , who was also being ridden in the arena. I looked at her and said “God I miss you.”

What’s the worst thing about falling off (when you’re totally ok)? Getting back on. It really is. Or, maybe the next day is the worst part. All I know is, I landed on my tailbone and my ring finger on my right hand did not want to bend. But despite the pain and the blood from ripping my fingernail back, I got back on and got back to work. I knew the faster I got what needed to be done, done, the faster I could go ice my hand.

June was really good. We did some more cantering, in both directions and my tailbone was on fire, but luckily we didn’t have to work long, since she was responding to everything I asked of her.

So, welcome to the world of opinionated mare babies? Maybe I’ll get better at sitting a buck. Maybe third time’s a charm. God I hope so.

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