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This was hands down the easiest equine-related winter for me since I started riding horses.

Here's why:

I didn't.

It was dark. It was cold. I did the math on taking risks driving over snow and ice in my (only) car and risking my (only) body for a hobby when y'know, bills never take a day off (and neither does my job) and it freaked me out.  For the first time in my life, I took a deep breath and said, "horses will still be there in the spring".
plus going in circles is TEH DUMZ
It's not that my beloved ZB was neglected--she's at a lovely full care farm with group turnout and is in training with my most favoritest young horse trainer two days a week. I dropped off board checks and grain and smooshed her smooshy nose and gave her (sugar-free) cookies and (fully-leaded) sugar cubes.
I didn't clip. I didn't blanket. I'm growing her mane out because YOLO. I've ridden less than 10 times in the last 4 months. My tack is dirty. My trunk is a mess. I haven't bought a bit or a bridle or really anything horse related in the longest time I can remember since I've been an adult.
Now it's trying hard to be spring and my head is in a much better place.

Sunny afternoons and green grass poking through the mud just start speaking to me in a way icy roads and dark indoors never do.
so cute
And see.

ZB is still the best horse I've ever had in my life.
look i took one lesson
And I wasn't kidding when I said she changed all my expectations for myself.
why yes my first ride in two weeks was bareback down the ditchbank on my baby mare
And more than that, all my expectations for the people around me.
is that the boy riding the zb bareback?
yes that's the boy riding zb bareback

We're still here.

Life is doing some unpredictable things right now (doesn't it always?). I have a Plan A and a Plan B and a Plan C and a couple ideas for variations on any of those at any given time. None of those plans is rated shows and pressure and "back to the grind" in terms of horse expenses.
Here's to a year like none other.
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There are certain moments that reverberate through the very foundations of your life and break down everything you ever thought you knew.

They are rarely the moments you expect.
Mine was on the back of a Roxiecorn, riding through breathtaking mountains, talking to the sort of friend who isn't afraid to call me on my shit.

I told her about how I consistently choose the same thing in relationships--petulant assholes who treat me badly.

She laughed.

She said, "your picker's broken!"

It was a silly moment in a fun weekend.

I went home.

I let go of the long term relationship I had with a horse that was a bad match for me. I watched both of us blossom as that same friend moved heaven and earth to get me this little black mare.
ermegerd tiny zb!
I learned what it was like to be with a creature that adores me. She's a fucking Disney horse--she canters up to me in the pasture. She whinnies at me every day I come to the barn. She's honest and she's smart and she's kind and she's the best horse I've ever been around, bar none.

Maybe non-horse people won't understand this, but I figure you folks will. There was something so foundational to me about having a relationship like this. Learning that not only was this kind of a connection a thing, but that it could be expected. That I didn't have to take everyone's shit and that I could raise my expectations and get what I needed out of life.

It sort of spiraled from there. 
a much better place
I raised my expectations. 

Drew some hard lines.

Advocated for myself for the first time in my life. 

I lost friends. 


My marriage. 

People who were supposed to matter to me walked away. 

baby mare <3
Through it all, there was this larger-than-life baby mare who still whinnied at me every time I came to the barn. 
and yeah everyone should get divorce photos. 10/10 recommend.
My life doesn't look much like it used it--I'm on a single income making things work. I can't fathom going to a horse show or paying $$$ for clinics. About every other month, I do a lot of math and wonder why I need to have a giant eating pooping liability cost me money every day. 

I ride a couple times a week, generally bareback, in the dark, by myself. I don't care about the most perfect movement or moving up the levels or having the best, newest, and coolest things. 

There are things that matter so much more to me.

I've learned so much from the horses in my life--Izzy taught me to be afraid, Cuna taught me to love, Courage still has the most stupidly meaningful name on the planet, and Zoe? 

This little lady gave me more than all the others together.

My life is profoundly different because of who she is. 

and the people who stayed 
This isn't a return to blogging or riding, really. The way horses fit in my life right now is different than it's ever been.

Zoe is my safe space. 

My friend. 

My freedom. 

My anchor.

I have other competitive outlets right now. There's a part of me that resents even the idea of putting pressure or expectations on the creature that changed my world in such an enormous way.

She's so much more to me than scores or accomplishments or adventures. I don't need some judge at a horse show to tell me where I'm inadequate or how I don't measure up to their standards.

I really don't care.
the loveliest lady
I love the little moments. 

 The quiet times.

The moments she carried me though. 
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It's been a hell of a year.

I've been places I never thought I would be.

I'm surrounded by the people I least expected. 

It's not what I thought I wanted.

But now that I'm here, I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.
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Hello world.

It's been a while.

It's going to be a while longer.

I'm in a funny place in life right now. I've spent so many years trying and learning and growing through horses. Finding myself and hearing my voice.

And now that I have the best horse I've ever had, I'm using the voice I developed with horses in the rest of my world.
i see fire
For the present, Zoebird is my neutral. My buddy for midnight trail rides and moonlit toodles. I scratch her itchy spots and let her essence soak through me.

I have a post kicking around in my head that needs to be written. There are so many adventures yet to be had and stories to be told.

I'll be back to tell them when things quiet down a bit.

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I know, I know. Every time I say that, you think I can't top the last time I said that.


I can.

I don't even know why you doubt me anymore.
shame on your doubts
Soooooo this story starts back in January when I visited my sister and we skipped through a tack store whilst tossing dollar bills into the air willy nilly (metaphorically).

One thing I saw that many of you were like OMFG HOW DID YOU NOT BUY THAT was this:
make sexy eyes at otto!

I mean. Yeah. It's lovely. But also like a billion dollars and OH YEAH perhaps you remember how ZB fits in approximately off-the-rack NOTHING.

Plus I happen to know that the thing with Otto is that you can order custom but you have to go through a dealer and there isn't one close to me. Also one thing about me is that I have the attention span of a caffeinated gnat, so custom ordering is not in my wheelhouse. I'm an instant gratification girl.

But then you all probably know Stephanie (say with me: THAT BITCH!) who I legit hung out with at Rolex last year and one day on facebook she started this out-of-control thread about ugly custom bridles which somehow segued into her casually dropping the fact that she works for an Otto dealer.


I did what any responsible tack ho would and casually filed that information away for later.
every day is a good day for rolex pictures

lol jk this is me

I immediately messaged her every detail of what I wanted and asked what it would cost.

She for some reason didn't think I was a tire kicker and got back to me all polite and professional and told me the cost.

We'll leave it vague, but let's just agree that it was enough that as a seasoned tack ho who's used to paying for quality, I most definitely threw up in my mouth and was like NOPE HARD PASS LOL WE ARE NEVER EVER EVER GETTING THAT TOGETHER.

Once you know

And you've had some time to get used to it

And then you think about your life without it

I mean.

The mare legit doesn't fit in off the rack sizes, which means 1) finding things for her is impossible and 2) impulse buying strap goods is dead. Also she's the nicest horse I've ever had, so doesn't she deserve the nicest bridle?

And you know. I'm not showing this year, so what better time to buy a ridiculous bridle than now when I'm not paying entries and memberships?
logic. we has it. 

I messaged Stephanie something mature like YOLO (after several weeks, I'll have you know).

Then the wait began.

I was super patient for like the first 38 seconds.

Then it was pure torture.

I think Roxie's (and Halo's!!) mom got so tired of listening to me that she sent me a link to a purple padded FSS bridle for pennies on the dollar on eBay, which I most definitely bought to kill time.
again with the photo edits
I waited. I waited more. THERE WAS SO MUCH WAITING.

Except it also wasn't over.

I was hoping to hold off on writing this for a while and be like "everything is awesome!" but it's been a week+ and despite repeated attempts to reach out to Otto, I don't have a firm plan or a ship date for the correct browband and it's leaving a sour taste in my mouth for sure.

I mean. I may be small potatoes to Otto himself, but I didn't pay $$$ for a custom to bridle to get *almost* what I wanted.
mmmm classy
Bright side: I managed to finagle my topline leather browband on and it does look fabulous. And I'm obsessed with the bridle. And it's exactly what I wanted (other than the browband). And it looks fabulous on ZB.
taking a bridle picture
wtf is zb doing

hi zb

yeah now it's not a bridle pic
So anyways. It's in progress and after waiting as long as I did, I am not thrilled to be waiting longer.
Otoh, the bridle is gorgeous and I do not regret a cent.
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I haaaaate blog posts that start out by apologizing for not blogging, so I refuse to do that to you guys. 


Things have been happening. 
always toodling
blogger meet up!
riding lessons!
definitely my latest zany idea in progress
Plus the weather here has been to-die-for (too soon?) and so my evenings have been out doing all the things vs staring at my laptop typing away. 

There's a lot going on. Most of it doesn't belong here. 
But some of it does. ZB continues to be the loveliest lady no matter what I cook up any given day. I can throw frisbees off her, hack out alone in the rain, or take trips and come home knowing that she's still going to whinny at me and be foot perfect to play with. 

I mean. She definitely has her things. 
yeah i'm growing out her mane

In a last ditch attempt to make me focus, my trainer has started semi-mandating weekly lessons because otherwise she knows I just fuck around and screw things up. Which like. She's right. And it's true. And I like lessons. And lort knows I need the help. 

Plus I don't actually have any lesson media (sorry!), but GODDAMN little lady is coming along nicely when I remember to sit up and ride. I even had a moment of being like "LETS GO TO A SHOW" right up until I remembered how much work that is. 
also my corgi stole the mrs pastures and just strolled past me like this
Some days we work hard and put in the time with ground work and dressage and concentrated "training".

But a lot of days, I need to just not.
oh and a new photo editor

I hang out and breathe her horsey smell. Play with her mane. Groom her gleaming coat. Watch her munch on her favorite weeds and marvel that a creature like this is here with me.

Some things are good. Some things are not good. 

But we're here. 

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I board at a fabulous barn with some ladies that inspire me.

And they like trail riding.

And when I got a mid-week text like "let's go to the state park!", I was like "...but the bugs are super bad there waaaaaah" and found an alternate location.
I also found coffee because humaning is hard
Fortunately, they were all on board for an excursion to the mountains. 
ZB always up for an adventure
It's such a different world for me--I can't get my head in the game for horse shows, but I was thrilled to go hit the trails. We haven't hauled out since last fall, but I know I could count on ZB. She's just such a champion. She loads and hauls like a champ, then gets off the trailer like a pro and yet again, led the way for the first chunk of the ride. 

Lil lady has a motor on her. 
tasty bush
Even when we hit some challenges that I didn't quite anticipate, ZB's "NOT R WANT MUM NO" response is to stop and stare at something.

Not lose her shit.

Not buck me off. 

Not leave the county. 
and the skies were completely stunning
We kept everything calm and easy and went out for about two hours over a variety of terrain, including a couple water crossings, plenty of rocks, and lots of different grades up and down. 

It was Zoe's first time in the mountain and OMFG YOU GUYS I COULD NOT BE MORE THRILLED. 
i adore this mare
She led. She followed. She saw dirt bikes and mountain bikes and runners and heard guns and saw wild life and dealt with all of it like an old hand. 

She's still learning how to cross water (cross your fingers for a legit training post tomorrow!), but she made a good effort at everything we tried. 

The best part is just how much fun she is for every step. 

So honest. 

So game. 
goal: ride in the mountains = achieved!
I mean. It isn't even just the riding. It's how Ms. ZB shows up and tries no matter what. Hauling to a new place? 

No probs. 

Tying to a trailer for the first time?

She's got it. 
I know basically my whole blog now is like ZB R PERFECT AND I SUPER LOVE HER, but I can't even apologize for it. 

I took my baby horse to the mountains. 

She exceeded expectations and those expectations were already irrationally high on account of how lovely she is. 
remind me i need to break in my new latigo so we can go full old west
I mean. I always say that some day the little lady will have a bad day, and I won't even be able to get mad at her, because she's so freaking perfect most of the time. 

But yeah. 

It hasn't happened yet.
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Last weekend, I took my pilfered camera to the big recognized dressage show that's local to me.
this blog is about me and my horse but since i took these pictures, i give myself permission to use them
I love hanging out behind the camera because I can take everything in while staying completely invisible.
i am trying to keep pictures anonymous though

I watched people ride beautiful horses. 

Looked at the fancy ribbons.

Enjoyed the flow of well-ridden tests. 

And I'd be lying if I said I wanted to do that right now.

Honestly, just being there made me nauseous. 
I'm struggling to put into words just how much I enjoy letting ZB be my safe space and my happy place. I show up and just enjoy every moment with her. 

There's no pressure. It doesn't matter if we accomplish something today or tomorrow or next year or ten years from now. 
outfits always matter
I love her bold curves and zero-shits-given attitude. My hearts melts when she whinnies her daily greeting. 

She makes every day a fun adventure.
she is her own lady
Objectively, I want to show again. 


Not today. 

Not tomorrow. 
matching sparkle hats!
From now until then, I'll just be enjoying my best lady. 
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Many moons ago, I bought a sprenger mechanical hackmore off of blogger Alanna for a song. When it showed up, I realized it was roughly moose sized (which had I actually read the ad, I probably would have noticed) and yeah, it was never going on a petite Courage face. 

But guess who is moose sized?!
best baby mare!
and yes this is the smallest adjustment
I spent all day Friday watching fancy dressage horses do their thing and yeah, showing still sounds nauseating to me.

So I went back to the barn and threw the new-to-me hack on ZB.
old SB would have been horrified by this look
We did a lap around the outdoor arena, during which I established that ZS Zoebird gave exactly the number of shits about it that you would expect.
And yeah. Then we just headed down the ditch bank in evening light for our first solo excursion. 
If it looks magical, it was.
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I've always watched people having fun with their horses and thought that couldn't be me because somehow I was stuck on this idea that the horse I needed to be competitive in the show arena wasn't the same horse that made me laugh back in the barn. 
dramatic spring skies

And for some reason, I was more focused on the competitiveness than the fun thing.

The whole point of Zoe is that I was really sick of that mindset.

I didn't get two shits if I ever showed again.

I just wanted to have fun.
Now I have this incredible baby mare who whinnies at me every day when I show up. 

She's game to try every day no matter what we're doing.
best evening plans
She has this beautiful attitude where she's calm and brave and sees new things as fun adventures instead of scary predators. 

Her response to changes in her home environment is to march over and stick her nose on whatever it is and smoosh it. 
her days of fitting through a people door are limited
It's funny how much she's changed my entire attitude. 

She's the most talented horse I've ever had the privilege of owning. I'm closer to my 10 year goals that I have ever been in my life. 

And they matter less to me than they ever have. 
hullo hing leg
Don't get me wrong--I still want to show. I want to get my bronze medal on a horse I trained myself. I want to run one recognized event above BN. I want to have a great outfit. Get a 70%. Know I belong. 

But right now?

It's rather terrible content for a blog, because I enjoy every damn day. I have such a good time. I'm not freaking out and struggling. There isn't really a compelling story line because honestly, everything actually is awesome. 
selfie game even on point
I'm really excited about the lessons we're taking right now because each glimpse at the potential ZB has makes me even more excited for our competitive future together. 
But I'd be lying if I said that was the thing I enjoyed most about her.

It's the every day laughs in the barn that make this entire relationship worthwhile.
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