I stumbled across this blog hop by Alberta Equest earlier in the week, and due to an astonishing lack of originality decided it would be fun to answer and post here. Some of these questions ended up being a lot harder than I thought and I have, of course, rambled and probably overshared. I foresee that I will have blogger’s remorse in the morning.
Q1: What hobbies do you have outside of riding?
I don’t really ride these days, but assuming that ‘riding’ here means ‘anything to do with mules’ – I don’t really have any other hobbies. I suppose this blog counts, but if I’m not with the equines or doing chores related to the equines, then I’m working. I used to write fiction and draw, but I don’t really have the time or energy for that anymore.
Ben and I do watch a lot of historical C-dramas, though (and by ‘a lot’ I mean we watch an hour of TV in the evening while we’re having dinner). I don’t really know how it happened but we’ve become a little obsessed with them. My number one recommendation would be Nirvana in Fire, which is genuinely the best TV show I have ever seen – you can watch it on Viki for free, or pay a small sub to watch without adverts. It is beautiful and clever and everyone in it is amazing. Another favourite is Princess Agents, which is utterly stupid and over the top and yet has the most incredible character arc in the character of Yan Xun who is a beautiful boy and WHY YAN XUN, WHY. We’re currently watching The Rise of The Pheonixes which is on Netflix.
Q2: What is your boarding situation? Are you happy with it?
Earlier this year we moved to our own 10 acre farm, having previously kept the herd on DIY livery, and I couldn’t be happier. The yard we were at was a good one and we were mostly left alone, but the non-horsey owners did like to see pristine, mud-free fields and I often suffered from an undercurrent of stress every winter or whenever we had a lot of rain. I was always frightened that they might turn around and tell us we had to stable the horses and mules for a portion of the day to preserve the fields – this would have created a lot of extra work and more expense.
So yes, despite losing Iris so soon after we moved, this has been a good decision. Marty in particular has really benefitted from regular work, as it’s so much easier to find the time when you have them at home and don’t have to fit in chores and exercise in twice daily visits.
Q3: What’s on your horsey-related wish list?
Having finally got my very own pack saddle, I have obtained the number one item on my wishlist. It’s my pride and joy (second only to my mules, of course).
Re-fencing our fields would be good, and we’re looking into that now that we have a little more budget for it.
Q4: What is your most expensive horsey-related item?
Does the farm count? If not, then it would have to be Xato’s saddle even though I bought it second-hand. It’s a Specialized and is built on a mule tree, so when I saw it come up for sale in the UK I grabbed it. It came with a collar and breeching so it was a bargain, really.
Q5: What was the hardest horsey-related decision you’ve had to make lately?
I know the obvious answer might appear to be Iris, but that wasn’t my decision to make.
I suppose for me, personally, making the decision to cease print production of Horsemanship Magazine five months ago and become digital only was the absolute hardest. It broke my heart. I haven’t really spoken about it anywhere because it still hurts, but hey – I guess that’s why the questions in this blog hop are called ‘tough’.
Producing an independent magazine almost completely by yourself is a hard grind anyway, particularly when you also work full time, and we had been struggling to catch up financially ever since I made a proofing mistake last May (after Xato suffered his eye injury) and had to have 400 covers reprinted; but costs continued to rise and I would literally have a breakdown every two months as I worried about whether we would have enough to cover the printing and postage. Then the magazines would arrive, I’d think how beautiful they looked and how much I enjoyed creating this resource for people, and I’d be bourne up again by the optimism of thinking that maybe this time would be our big break. Rinse, repeat.
It was a truly awful situation because there was no simple answer. With a subscription-based service you can’t just call it a day, and the price would have had to rise by such a significant amount to cover costs that we would have lost most of our subscribers. Going digital and offering print subscribers a choice between refund, back issue fulfilment, or an extra year of digital subscription, seemed like the best option that would keep as many people happy as possible. My mental health was completely shot by this point, we’d lost a lot of money, and I’m still suffering from the after effects; it really sucks to fail that hard.
Q6: What’s something you feel you can’t live without in your routine?
As a follow on from the above question – getting my pack saddle thanks to the generous help of friends and family has really helped to break through the clouds, and I rely a lot on my walks with Marty. I didn’t go out for nearly two weeks while I was working on getting him comfortable with it, as his mock-up pack saddle of pad and surcingle had galled him the last time I’d used it; and boy, did I feel the effects!
I also love late-night feeding on a summer evening. We have less light pollution here and the skies are so vast. Moths and other insects are drawn to the stable lights and bats will swoop right past your head. Everything seems so much more peaceful.
Q7: What’s on your horsey-related calendar for the rest of the summer?
Nothing specific, other than getting out with Marty and his pack saddle as much as possible and exploring new places. I had hoped to go down to the beach this summer, which is a six mile hike one way; we may yet manage to do that before the clocks change.
Xato recently got a score of 63.04% in his first online dressage competition, so it would be fun to see if he can improve on that.
Q8: What is one thing you would willingly change about your horse?
I’d like Xato to feel better about life. He comes across as an easy-going sort but he’s got some trouble in him at the moment that we can’t locate, made worse by losing Iris I think. His mind always feels ‘busy’ to me and I’d like him to get back to that peaceful place he used to have.
Q9: What is something you most want to improve on with you and your horse?
With Marty I’d like to improve our packing skills up to a really useful level – being able to pile camping gear on him and go off on a long distance hike would be great, but I’d also like to do … something. I’m not sure what. Trail maintenance maybe, helping to carry materials in and out? I’m a bit obsessed with the idea of using a pack mule to carry equipment and finds to and from hard to access archaeology sites, but that’s a really niche area. It would be fun though. In my daydream we get to meet Neil Oliver, Professor Alice Roberts, and Dr Janina Ramirez while we do this. They all tell me how much they like my mule and then we go down to the pub and they share some really cool historical facts.
With Xato I’d like to improve my skills to where I can work with him and not feel like I’m making things worse.
Q10: What has been your [current] horse’s most severe injury?
This makes me nervous to answer – I’m worried about tempting fate! Another tough question!
Xato’s would be the aforementioned eye injury (I also did a vlog about his treatment for it, here), when he got a fly mask stuck over his eyes and severely ulcerated both corneas. It really was a very serious injury with almost total coverage in his right eye and partial coverage in his left, but to the amazement of everyone concerned – including the vet – he made a genuinely miraculous recovery in a little over a week of treatment.
Marty’s was when he went hopping lame one day and the vet diagnosed a possible shoulder fracture. She was very curt with me about it and I fell into a black hole of worry, because at that time Marty was a very different character and I knew that if it was a fracture, then we probably would not try and go through the stress of surgery and hospitalisation. He was on boxrest for a week (I was very glad I’d spent so much time teaching him to get used to stables, even though I have never intended to stable him) and – touch wood – has been sound ever since.
Q11: What do you feel is your biggest downfall is as a rider?
My nerves! My overactive imagination! Unfortunately once something has gone wrong, all I can think about is the possibility of it happening again. I think that’s why I have hardly any concerns about getting on Marty, despite him being utterly green and … well … Marty, because unlike Xato he’s never done anything ‘bad’ under saddle.
Q12: What feeds your motivation?
Adventure, and entertainment. I’ve no interest in winning rosettes but I do want to say I’ve hiked up Snowdon with a mule, or walked the coast with one, or followed in the footsteps of our ancestors. A few years ago I had an animal communicator ‘talk’ to Marty, and he said that he and I were here to make people laugh; I’m not sure how much belief I hold in animal communication, but I liked what I was told.