Tag Archives: perspective

The Lesson That Never Ended

Alternate titles: The First Time I Fell Off Macy, Lessons within the Lesson, or, my favorite: The Sh*t Show

Tuesdays lesson was set up for disaster from the beginning. I had asked for a jump lesson and we decided days ago to go out into the new jump field and hop over some of the xc jumps that had recently been placed out there. I told Sarah I wanted to see what Macy was like jumping out in the open.

It was so windy. I mean so so so windy. I couldn’t keep the end of my reins from flying all around. But, because we are eventers, and because I am stubborn, I thought, “It’ll be fine, I need to practice jumping in a new place with less than ideal conditions. What will I do if it is windy at a show? I’m way too cheap (and proud) to scratch.”

That was MISTAKE #1.

Macy was on fire from the get go. I couldn’t hear a thing Sarah was screaming at me, so it looked like I was just ignoring her. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating to know you are not doing what your instructor wants but you cannot hear her and change anything. On top of that, the beast you are riding is trying to gallop back to the barn and/or feels like she is about to EXPLODE internally.

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A moment that looked nice

Then, when I could actually hear Sarah, she was telling me to kick Macy forward, but it is petrifying to kick a horse forward (or do anything other than grip uncontrollably with every body part) a horse that you think is going to EXPLODE.  Or it is for me at least.

This was when I realized riding Macy, a hot unpredictable TB, was MISTAKE #2.

What I would have given to have the safety and comfort of Georgie. Instead, I felt like I was going to fall off, be reared off (she never reared, just felt like it) or shook off by her enormously strong neck. I DID sit up and ride and TRY to make things better, but in order to hear Sarah I had to lean in, or cock my head ever so perfectly, and that would throw everything out the window. We did this for about 30 minutes but it felt like eternity. I was miserable and wanted to just throw in the towel with the mare.

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I’m not smiling

But I didn’t. And my intelligent instructor decided that yes, we would jump, but we would work on relaxing the horse (and rider) by trotting jumps AWAY from the barn.  Before we get into that, I would like to share two classic quotes from Sarah that I was actually able to hear  during the lesson:

“Well now she’s just being sour. KICK HER!” (When Macy was running through her shoulder and essentially trying to tear back to the barn)

“No, that’s just what she does. She’s a bitch.” (When Macy was not listening to a thing I was asking and was dragging me around the field and I asked if I was doing something wrong.)

So, we started by jumping a small barrel thing. It went fine. I actually think we did  begin to relax. I was able to work on my position. On the backside of the jump I need to stay up out of the saddle, continue to let my elbows move and ignore her head tossing, bolting, crap.

We moved on to the next jump. It was a narrow coop with two standards that had wooden cutout  watermelons on them. At the beginning of the lesson, all the standards had blown over so Sarah put each upright as we went to the jump. Same routine for this one, trot to it, land and halt.

Great! We trotted to it and about 3 strides out, the standard blew over, towards us, and Macy came unglued.

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Do you see where my foot is??

And I landed on the ground. Totally fine. But on the ground.

Macy took off and after making sure I was ok Sarah said “She’ll probably gallop back to her pasture. We can go get her there.”

MISTAKE #3: Don’t ride a horse whose owner knows where they run to when they have dumped their rider.  ūüėČ

Got her, got on her and came back to the STUPID watermelon standard. I made Sarah stand there and hold it upright. We got over it. Not pretty, but together.

I then jumped this stupid jump like 6-7 more times. It went ok, but Macy was getting agitated on the back side and making it tough on me. It just wasn’t fun. At all.

I felt like we had been out there for hours, but the lesson was literally 50 minutes long start to finish. I’ve never been so miserable in a lesson to the point that it felt way longer than it was.

When we got back to the barn and out of the God forsaken wind I was able to process all that had happened. I really don’t care that I fell off. I’ve basically been waiting for that to happen and know it will again. But I just wasn’t sure I had it in me to deal with the bullshit of the lesson. I hate spooky horses. I have a tough time with hot horses. Put them together and I’m clearly totally miserable.

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Looking sweet and innocent after the lesson

But then I realized that I’m completely starting over with Macy. Not only am I starting with a new horse, I am starting with a completely different kind of horse. And that isn’t going to come easily or without a serious learning curve. Do I want to take that on? Yesterday I wasn’t so sure.

Today the answer is yes. (Is this MISTAKE #4???)

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I do love this shot from the end of the lesson

I’ve already learned how to be a better rider in just the few weeks I have been riding Macy. I REALLY want to be able to ride a hot horse for the mere fact that it’s a great tool to have in my toolbelt in case of needing to problem solve for the future. But I want to do it on my terms. If its windy AF I don’t want to ride Macy in the wind in an open field when I KNOW she is going to be batsh*t crazy. I don’t have anything to prove with this mare (and she certainly has nothing to prove with me) and I’m not riding her so I can teach her a lesson or get her to be safe in situations like that. I’m riding her so I can learn from her. Safely. And see what might be fun to do with her. She’s not my forever horse, she is who she is, and hopefully with that arrangement I can still have a good time with her. Does that make sense? I guess in the end I feel like I need to change the way I look at my partnership with Macy and it may not fit into my normal plan. And I think that’s ok.

I’m still signed up for the recognized show in June, but honestly, if I get there and she is crazy, I’m not going to force myself to ride just because we are there and I paid for it. If I get to a lesson and she’s crazy, I may ask Sarah to hop on her and work her a bit for me. I just want to be safe and have fun. And I think it’s possible, and as I get to know Macy better, I think it will become easier.

So, that’s where I am today. And we’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings!

 

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The Best Grey Mare’s Birthday

It’s a special day for Georgie. ¬†And a special day for me, as I used it as an excuse to give her a bath. Mare is DISGUSTING. I don’t know if it is because she hasn’t been brought in daily for grooming like she was when I was riding her, but my once a week grooming sessions are doing nada for her.

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In case you don’t believe me

She hasn’t moved to her new place yet, so I decided to take advantage of the indoor wash rack. She was thrilled to hear that her birthday present was a bath. Mare loves to be dirty, barely tolerates being bathed.

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The look she gave me when she heard she was getting bathed.

I didn’t do an amazing job, mainly because I didn’t have three hours, but I got a LOT of the filth off. I threw on her cooler and brought her outside to let her graze while she dried off. We barely made it onto the grass before she rolled. And as she got up her cooler was all askew, my lead rope came off of her halter and she took off. Good bye lame horse who isn’t supposed to do more than walk! Luckily the green grass nearby enticed her, and after galloping over to Macy to say hi (or show Macy that she was really the crazy one around here) she let me come grab her.

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Post roll and gallop. Moderately clean still

I let her graze while I curried her, I mean there had to be something she would enjoy about this day, since it was her 14th birthday… and when we were all done, I brought her back to her pen. Where she rolled again. She is now just as dirty as she was pre-bath.

So, Happy Birthday Georgie! Way to never change and prove to me that you’ve still got as much sass and as many opinions as you did when you were 13.

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Our First Show Together

In the week leading up to the schooling show I was going to with Macy there was a big part of me that was nervous about how it was going to go. But there was also a smaller part of me that was like “eh, just stay on and try to have fun.” As the week wore on, I concentrated more on that smaller feeling until it basically took over my thoughts.

Our trip over was uneventful and Macy settled into her stall and was pretty well-behaved except when I was wrapping her for the night and she refused to stand still. There was a lot of cursing going on. Macy just isn’t the type of horse who is at all concerned about you and what you’re doing. If she wants to move she is going to move.

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Checking things out.

Dressage warm up was in a large grassy field which gave us plenty of space to stay away from other horses. She was mostly calm and relaxed and I felt like we would have a pretty good test. She stood still while we took video of Sarah’s ride and meandered over to the arena. I was like “Oh we’ve got this. This is the new Macy!”

We literally turned to enter the arena at A and Macy turned into a fire-breathing dragon. She cantered up centerline. She was so tense and was taking these teensy tiny trot steps as we approached our first 15 meter circle. I was completely caught off guard and was thinking “Wait, what is going on??” At about our first lengthen (we did the Training A test) I was like ” So THIS is what Sarah was talking about.”

I spent the rest of the test smiling and laughing while trying to get Macy to listen to me a little. Her head was above my shoulders during any transition and for the entire canter lengthen. Yeah, it was a shit show. But, whatever.

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I brought Stella and she and Smokey could have taught Macy a thing or two about relaxation

When I got over to Sarah she said “You stayed in the arena!” Which is what every instructor says when they have absolutely nothing else positive to say. We laughed about it and she gave me some advice and we have some things to work on (get her DEEP so she can’t pull that shit with her head!!) I feel like I got the true Macy dressage experience and I am going to be far better prepared for it next time.

My jump time was soon after dressage- I was doing 3′ since Macy hadn’t been jumping much. Warm up went ok… There was WAY more head tossing than there had been at home and I felt like Macy would suck back at the corner and then take off when we landed.

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But I wore my new lucky socks L gave me for secret Santa!! I love them!!

Luckily Sarah came over before I had to go over to the course and I asked her for pointers. Keep my elbows moving and have a plan for when I land. Don’t just do nothing. Great tips, and they helped. We had one final lovely jump before I headed over to the course.

So, no one I know actually watched my ride, but in my head, here’s how it went: Macy was ready to JUMP. She listened to my aids, I don’t remember a lot of head tossing, I let her go as fast as she wanted, I was uncomfortable with how fast we were going but didn’t feel unsafe, I dropped my hands a couple of times when we got in a little short to the jumps, but basically she was a rockstar and I had a lot of fun. A LOT of fun. I need to get more comfortable with her speed and power, but the nice thing about Macy is she knows her job and takes it seriously so I know she is going to take care of herself and since I’m on her back, will take care of me, too. Mare loves to jump. No jump faults but I forgot to wear my number so our time wasn’t recorded. I like to think we were in the ribbons ūüėČ

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Some kind stranger snapped this photo of us!

So, it was fun. I had fun with Macy. We have a LOT to work on. Especially since Sarah and I agree that we can compete at a recognized show together. So, I got my entry in today, and hopefully we will be doing our first three day event together! This mare has already taught me so much, and I think that if I just keep an attitude that is laid back and eager to have fun, we should have a great season together.

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Keeping the Sanity

While I would love to give myself credit for how amazingly sane Macy has been acting lately, I don’t think that’s giving the full picture of what’s going on.

Sure, I think Macy tolerates me. Maybe even kinda likes me. She definitely likes that I let her get away with things Sarah NEVER let her get away with. And while I don’t always push her to her potential, or ask more and more of her, I do work her hard and expect her to work when I am on her back. Some days she is fine with that, most days in fact, but she does still let me know her opinions. But to be honest, her opinions have been far less dramatic recently, and today I rode her without draw reins. While I have ridden her without draw reins jumping, or hacking out, the thought of leaving them in the tack room for dressage seemed a bit risky.

But. She was perfect.

So, I’m going to give a shout out to some pharmaceuticals that I think are helping with her brain. And helping me enjoy this mare as much as I have.

Sarah has tried some calming supplements in the past. Nothing had really worked. In fact, the calming supplement from SmartPak “SmartCalm” made Macy even crazier. When she called SmartPak, they mentioned that yeah, that could happen in like 1% of horses. Oh Macy.

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Sarah telling Macy that if she doesn’t behave she’ll be getting draw reins again.

But something about having a baby and hormones changing seemed to make Macy more receptive to drugs.

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Macy on drugs that work

Sarah started her out on Regumate. It hadn’t worked in the past, but this time around it seemed to take the edge off. She was still a bit whackadoodle, but better. Because there was a positive difference, Sarah switched to the injectable regumate. There is some controversy over this drug, and how it affects horses, but so far Sarah is happy with it. And should it become banned from horses competing in recognized events we can deal with that.

Because what seems to have made the biggest difference is Quiessence.

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It’s like a miracle drug.

It has completely taken the edge off.

And while Macy will always be Macy, (today she wouldn’t let me groom her, so I had to let her gallop around for about 10 minutes) once she gets the ya yas out, she is ready to go to work. And doesn’t pull any of her crap. It’s not like being all wound up lasts for the entire lesson like it used to.

Um. Amazing wonder drug.

Now, we’re headed to a schooling show this weekend. And to be honest, I 100% expect Macy to be tense and slighty crazy. It’s who she is. But even if she is, the fact that I can enjoy her at home, safely, means the world to me.

So here’s to sanity for both of us, and enjoying the use of safe and legal pharmaceuticals!

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Making It Work

I’ve been so wrapped up in who my next horse will be, and what I can afford and want, that I’ve been missing out on what’s been going on right under my nose. That mare I was kinda scared of a few weeks back is turning out to be an amazing partner.

I knew something was up on Saturday. It started pouring when I had Georgie out for a walk and I still had Macy to ride. There was a roping clinic going on in the indoor arena so my only option was to ride outside. It wasn’t going to happen in this weather. But, I’d been on a work trip Monday-Thursday and Macy had gotten vaccines on Friday so I hadn’t ridden her in a while. And I REALLY wanted to. So much so, that I made the 25 minute drive back down to the barn after the clinic ended just so I could ride her. WTF. I wouldn’t even do that for Georgie (ok, I would, but Georgie is my heart horse.)

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Love this mare. But man she is filthy these days

The next day I decided to do trot sets around the property. It was windy as f**k. That kind of wind where you can’t hear ANYTHING, but you turn your head and it’s silent and you can hear perfectly.

Macy was tense, I was tense, there were plastic bags flying around and tarps blowing twice their height, but I kept trotting her around. We got to one section of the property, where the footing is near perfect, where I always let Georgie gallop, and I was like “what the hell..” and I got into two point and urged her on. She was as happy as I was to gallop. We did it again just for fun and called it a day. I needed to know I could gallop her and enjoy it. And I can. It made me so happy to be out there galloping on a horse that enjoys it as much as I do.

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She’s full TB, but that head SCREAMS Irish

The following day we did some dressage work in the arena. I was super stressed and frazzled from work, and as we got started a horse got loose and was GALLOPING around the arena. I hopped off Macy and she got frightened by the horse and got away from me. So… now two horses GALLOPING around the arena. We caught Macy easily and had someone hold her outside the arena while we tried to catch the other horse. If nothing else I am AMAZING at catching horses. Yet, it still took some time.

I figured Macy’s brain was shot but Sarah said she would be fine. So I hopped on her and she was a really good girl considering all that had happened and the fact that the horse that had gotten loose was now being lunged like crazy in the arena with us. It was by no means a perfectly loose and relaxed ride, but still, I was really proud of her. She hasn’t pulled the hopping and throwing her head shenanigans in a while.

Then today. Jump lesson. We were going to string some jumps together in the hopes we could go to a jumper show next week. I was nervous as it was only the second time I had jumped her AND we’ve never done more than jump and halt.

Um. She was foot perfect. So easy and relaxed and FUN. It was a total blast.

And while I KNOW Macy can be a brat and I am SURE we are not done with that side of her, I have to say, I’m REALLY enjoying her. She tests me as a rider and pushes me to ride well. I can’t daydream when I am on her and I need to keep her working. And when I do, she is great. She will always be a TB. She’ll always be tense when it’s windy and plastic bags are blowing around us. But, if I can come to accept that, and have my expectations be realistic, I think this could really work out.

So, I’ve kinda put horse shopping (beyond Junebug) on hold. And I officially want to see if I can make it work with Macy, at least in the interim. She has surprised me and I can’t thank Sarah enough for trusting me with her.

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Now sure, I am fully prepared for a “Macy was the worst horse ever” post in the coming weeks, but for now, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy her. And learn as much as I can. As for the show, we’re going to give it a shot. She is renowned for being HORRIBLE at shows, super tense and impossible in warm up. But, we’ll see how it goes. And maybe we won’t warm up, lol.

I’m excited about this partnership and where is may go. I’m so glad I’ve stuck it out with her so far and hope we can continue to have fun together!

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Maybe Macy

For the past 2-3 weeks I’ve been riding Sarah’s former 2* horse, Macy. Macy is a legend at our barn. Yes, she was a successful 2* eventer with Sarah, and then went on to have an adorable baby when she retired. But, it’s more her personality that’s legendary. When I first started riding with Sarah I started to hear stories about Macy. How she would kill you if you looked at her wrong while cleaning her stall. How she would bite you if you brushed her. How one time, at one event, she got away from Sarah and took off. She somehow ended up with half her body underneath a horse trailer. The stories don’t end, and so I’ve always regarded Macy from a safe distance of about 10-20 feet away.

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Who, me?

When Macy came out of semi retirement a couple of years ago, Sarah let me ride her. The lesson started with Sarah screaming at me “DON’T TOUCH HER MOUTH!!” Lets just say the lesson didn’t go that well after that. I did end up riding Macy in a TOC show a couple of months later, but I didn’t touch her mouth, so we didn’t really wow the judge.

With her baby weaned, Sarah decided to bring Macy back into some light work since she was seemingly sound and just sitting around in the pasture. And then Georgie injured herself. So, now we’ve got a horseless rider, and an experienced event horse needing to be ridden. Perfect match, right?

Well. Sort of.

Remember how I said I don’t love the sensitive TB? Well, I wouldn’t say Macy is really sensitive, she’s more just crazy. When she is good, she’s amazing. But when she is bad, she is not fun AT ALL. I’ve now experienced both. I experienced bad Macy on my own, riding along in the indoor and she decided she was DONE. She does this really fun thing where she throws her head in the air and unseats you by using her incredibly strong neck. Or, she will throw her head/neck and start crow hopping. You can’t do anything but try to get your seat back and wait for it to be over. And then, it’s over, and you’re back to doing shoulder in, haunches in, and a bunch of other upper level movements.

So, in last night’s lesson, Sarah broke out the draw reins. She saw how much I struggled with Macy when I was riding her on her own, and she is sick of the mare pulling that shit. I’ve never ridden in draw reins, and didn’t even know Sarah had any, so we spent about 15 minutes just talking about how to use them (and how I shouldn’t use them unless they are needed) and why it will help when Macy pulls her head tossing, neck strength shenanigans.

Lets just say I was really glad I had them for our lesson. I spent about half the lesson with them loose and untouched. And then, she spooked at nothing and proceeded to unseat me and pull her head and neck out and wham, hit the draw reins. Her reaction lasted about a quarter what it had when I rode her without them. She pulled some more shit throughout the lesson, the worst freak out was when we asked her to lengthen. I am posting the video so you get a sense of what it’s like, but also want to say I take full responsibility for her being disgruntled. Um, I’m pulling back and asking her forward and¬†she had nowhere to go. Look how unhappy she is before I even get to the diagonal. The second go around was lovely. But this was not fun.

At the end of the lesson we had schooled shoulder in, haunches in and lots of leg yield. Macy is an AMAZING teacher. I could actually do these movements with ease- I didn’t have to ask for much, she is sensitive to my aids, and once I realized less is more, we really had some nice moments.

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But we also had 4-5 freak out moments. And at the end of the lesson, as Sarah was putting poles away, Macy spooked at the sound of them hitting the ground. Because she has never seen or heard poles before. Grr. And when I say she spooked, it’s a real spook. Not a one leg movement. An entire body bolting movement. It’s just annoying. I feel like I can’t ever have her on a loose rein. We tried to do a stretchy chewy and this happened:

So, I don’t want to make it seem like everything Macy does is bad. Because again, we had some lovely moments. And some of it was really fun!

Like this haunches in work!

But at the end of the lesson, I said to Sarah that while I liked Macy, I was also kinda scared of her. Sarah said she completely understood. Obviously Macy isn’t a horse for me to purchase or ride forever. But she is an incredibly talented horse that I could learn a ton from and potentially even compete this summer. She’s also free and a great option for me while I wait for baby horse to grow up. So.. maybe Macy is going to be my next partner in crime, even if it is just to learn from and become a better rider from. One of Sarah’s students once said about their current horse “I think of this as a business deal. I’m going to learn from her, she’s going to learn from me.” (Or something like that) And I think that maybe I need to go into riding Macy like that. I don’t have to fall in love with her, I just need to have a partnership that works. As long as I feel safe, and Macy is having a little bit of fun, maybe we can make this work.

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Fun. I need to remember this should be fun.

I want to thank Sarah for trusting me enough to ride her beloved horse and for also understanding my feelings about her. It’s tough to ride your coach’s/best friend’s horse and then blog about it, but Sarah has been amazing, and so far has agreed with any concerns I have about Macy, and has supported me through all of it!

So, for now, lets see how this plays out!

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Saying No To Your Dream Horse

I’ve hemmed and hawed about even writing this post. You see, I’ve been keeping a little secret from you all, and now that it’s all said and done I wasn’t sure I even needed to write about it. But, I will. Mostly because it will be cathartic to put it out into bloggerland and close this chapter.

When I let people know Georgie was injured and no longer competing with me, I got a lot of very sweet emails and lots of people reached out letting me know about possible horses for me.

What I didn’t expect, was for the folks in Ireland who I had ridden with, to contact me and see if it would be possible for me to purchase Buttons, the horse I had absolutely fallen in love with over there. (you can read about him here) At first I was like “yeah, right.” But the more we talked, the more I realized this could actually, amazingly, possibly, happen. They were being incredibly kind and generous and wanted Buttons in a good home, so were willing to work with me to see how we could make it happen. I started to freak out a little and imagined Buttons being here with me. OMG it would be a dream come true!!!

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Buttons. Look how happy I look!

What it all came down to was the cost of shipping him to the States. They agreed to look into it and they mentioned that without an agent, shipping costs could be drastically reduced.

I know nothing about the cost of shipping horses overseas, except that it wasn’t cheap. I decided to set a budget for myself so that I wouldn’t get carried away with getting Buttons if I really couldn’t afford it. At the top end of my budget, I could have the horse, and pay his board, but I wouldn’t have any money to compete or really take regular lessons for about a year. But, at that moment in time I didn’t care, because THIS WAS MY DREAM HORSE.

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More Buttons and I looking very happy together

So, we began working on looking into shipping costs. Unfortunately, the Shannon to Chicago route, which EN teased us with¬†this past fall, never really took off. That would have been the far cheaper option, as Shannon was about 40 minutes from the barn Buttons was located at. ¬†So, we’d have to haul the horse to Dublin and fly him to Chicago. Then, 3 days of quarantine. Then, I could drive 23 hours to go pick him up, and drive 23 hours home. This all sounded like it was NOT going to fit into my budget.

And it didn’t. Despite the folks at Dartfield working their pants off to get me a reasonable price, it was still far above my budget. The top end of my budget. Shipping horses can cost anywhere between $10-$20k I learned.

Yup. Let me break some of the steps down for you:

  1. Health cert, passport, blood work
  2. Transport to the airport
  3. Groom
  4. A shipping pallet is about 15k, and fits 3 horses. So, just to sit on the plane costs 5k per horse.
  5. Quarantine
  6. Transportation from airport home

Even with the most economical option we could find, and with people being incredibly generous, it would cost me $10k to get Buttons home.

I was now $7k over my stretched budget.

There was no way I could make this work, even with both the shipper and the seller offering to take payments. ¬†I’d be paying this horse off for over a year, and literally doing nothing but paying off the horse. Like, I would be sweating every single payment and trying to make it work. Yeah. No. Can’t justify that.

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So, I called Sarah just to make sure I was making the right decision and she agreed. Goodbye Buttons.

The folks at Dartfield  were so amazingly nice and tried so hard to make this work out. I felt horrible having to tell them no, after how much work they put into it.

So, the last two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. From EXCITED to sad¬†to EXCITED to sad. I almost felt a sense of relief when I sent the final “I’m sorry I can’t make it work” email. As sad as I was, I knew I could move on and not set my hopes on this horse any longer.

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Maybe one day I’ll get my dream Irish horse. Maybe not. I can’t live in the “maybe” and it’s so not my personality to dwell.

With Buttons behind me, I’m ready to move on to the next option. I’m really, really, excited about a baby I am going to check out next week. She’s not Irish, but she has a great pedigree and I think she could be a great fit for me. As I said to Sarah when I was weighing the options of Buttons or this baby horse , neither is a bad option. I’d be lucky to have either,¬†despite how different they are. So, even though I am down to the one option, instead of two, I think this one can make me equally as happy and make it much easier for me financially. And if baby horse is the option I go with, I’m also looking into options to keep riding and even competing this season, as that has been the hardest part for me- not having something to consistently hop on.

So many options! I’ll keep you posted as they go from options to decisions.

 

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