Saturday, June 9, 2012

hoof and wheel (and trout talk over beer)

This past Yuletide, a reader mailed me an amazing gift: two pairs of hand knit socks. One was a natural cream color, the other a forest green. I wear them all season long, as wool is warm in winter, and wicks away sweat from your feet in the summer (both seasons require boots around this farm). Anyway, I was putting on the cream pair, now well worn and well loved, and I realized there was a toe sticking on on my right foot. I was already running late to meet Patty over at Livingston Brook Farm, but I liked these socks and wanted to wear them on our trail ride through Maple Lane Farm (the 200+ acre farm across the street from LBF).

I grab a needle and thread in my kitchen windowsill. I use them to quickly stitch up the hole (while still wearing the socks) and slide into my well-worn paddock boots and half chaps over my navy blue breeches. I am about to go on a trail ride, but I am taking my English saddle and British horse and we just are more comfortable out there as a team in a dressage bridle and bit and black velvet helmet than a cowboy hat, horned saddle, and jeans. I am what I am.

I head to Patty and Mark's place and the trailer is loaded. We hop in to go to Riding Right to get the MerMan. He's only there another month and then back to Cold Antler. He'll be living here with Jasper full time by my birthday, July 10th.

Merlin did wonderfully. He loaded with little difficulty into the trailer. He tacked up like a gentleman. He rode off onto the paved roads, country lanes, up driveways and though corn and hay field paths without a single issue. I was riding on a saddle mailed to me by another reader, and I realized how many blog readers were a part of this trail ride. Socks to saddle, Patty too, all of them came to me from sharing my life right here. Patty introduced herself to me at a Barnheart event at Battenkill Books. I was on a Virginian saddle. The socks, came in the mail... I thought about all this and clicked my tongue and pressed my heels into Merlin;s side. HE stepped into a trot and I started posting with him. It felt as easy, and even, as riding a car and shifting gears. We are starting to really become a team, him and I.

As many good things come off the blog, so do the bad. I thought about a reader who left a series of negative comments explaining to me what she clearly knew and I did not: that I was not a real equestrian. I was a joke, and as soon as I got hurt or scared I would sell that horse and write something poetic about learning from mistakes. She/he was an angry person. Very angry.

I thought about those comments as I asked Merlin to step gently down a steep slope, leaning my body back into the saddle to help distribute my weight with each careful step. My hands guiding him as much as my legs with the same ribbon-placing reins from a dressage show a few weeks ago. Not to mention the same reins that I lost when I flew off Merlin's back into a fencepost and slammed to the ground after I forgot to cinch the girth tight enough. I have known the entire spectrum of becoming a rider from this Pony—bruises to ribbons, tears to cheers.

Well darling, you can bet my girth was cinched tight today. You can also bet I don't believe the words of angry strangers who tell me what I am and what I am not. I was out on sunny summer afternoon riding my own horse across an estate land in the company of a good friend. Merlin was biddable, gentle, and calm. I felt in control, content, and ready to go wherever Patty and Steele wanted to go. I may not be a cowgirl. I may not be some adapt of the Religion of Horses. But I am by no means NOT an equestrian. Merlin and I trotted to meet up with Patty and Steele and passed by all sorts of distractions without fuss. A small dog at Merlin's heels, horses in a nearby paddock, trucks passing us on the road pulling trailers with tractors...Merlin was fine. He loaded back into the trailer fine too.

When we finished our ride we sat out on her Adirondack chairs and she handed me an Otter Creek Stovepipe Stout. "That's right." I said, leaning back into my chair and raising my bottle, " I like my beer like I like my horses, black and stout, with a little kick..." We clinked bottles and enjoyed the celebration. Another successful ride.

When I got back to the farm there was a note on the door. Jack, from Jack's Outback Antique Shop in town stopped off to deliver my spinning wheel. It's an old one, but in great working order, that I had been paying off in installments at his shop. The last time I was there we had been picking out bits and pieces for a friend/s birthday present together and I saw the wheel in all its glory in the shop. It came with bobbins and pins and all sorts of woolly accouterments. I hadn't picked it up yet because it wasn't paid off but Jack apparently was in the neighborhood so he set it on the woodpile of locust rounds on the side porch. I went to fetch it and bring it inside. How about that? Five years of sheep and finally a proper wheel!

Tonight is something to look forward to. Meeting friends in Manchester and a Fly Fisher-woman named Molly who is coming in to do an Orvis School Class and is being treated to a proper night out at a favorite Tavern, the Perfect Wife. It'll be classes of hard cider and good food with fellow fly-fishing ladies tonight. A grand way to end a day of horses, wool, milking goats, and reading in the hammock.

Life is good. Even when it's not, it is. And when it gets dicey...well, I still have good socks. And that counts.


Blogger Alison said...

Glad Merlin's remembered his loading lessons. I was thinking at a young age of delving full-bore into the Equestrian Life, but realized all the Horse People I knew were a I think I prefer you as a Farmer with a horse.

Love your toast, too!

June 9, 2012 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi, Jenna-

I found your blog thru your friend Jon Katz via his. I enjoy both.

Your Very Angry Guy puzzles me; even if you were the worst rider in the world (which I'm sure you're not), or if you suddenly decided to make like the French and have yourself some horse stew instead--why would anyone else care? (Well, not that you would...) Point being, it's your horse!

Roger Ebert posted a funny video you might get a kick out of--rather timely to your post, I'd say (probably also on his Facebook page, if you prefer):

Anyway, I enjoy all the pics of your farm, and I am very partial to all the ones of Merlin--he's a gorgeous animal, if I do say so myself. He has quite the enviable head of hair on him.

Thanks for sharing your farm with us,

Morgan Shafer

June 9, 2012 at 5:56 PM  
Blogger *jean* said...

good for you...and i like anyone who can appreciate a good pair of matter what kind of horse gear they use... :)

June 9, 2012 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger famousthecat said...

The internet is full of trolls - it is so much easier to be judgmental and shitty to someone when you don't have to say it to their face. Haters gonna hate! Really, I would venture a guess that they are just jealous of your fabulousness. I have little patience for snark - on the internet or anywhere!

So you just go on with your bad self and don't waste another thought on angry people.

June 9, 2012 at 6:22 PM  
Anonymous spinningTexan said...

So glad you got a spinning wheel. I'm just learning to spin on a borrowed wheel and can't wait to get my own. Now, of course, you need a loom so you can weave. (Another hobby)

June 9, 2012 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Pics of the wheel! (Please!)

June 9, 2012 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Carrie in Wisconsin said...

I'm super excited for your antique spinning wheel! I have three antique wheels at the moment. Each one gorgeous. One was my great grandmothers and the other two I picked up for cheap at a local antique place. Both needed a lot of work, but my dad was up to the challenge. Once we had them all fixed they worked beautifully. If for some reason it would have a quirk or two, I'd be more than willing to see if I could pin point in photos! Again, I'm so excited for you!!!!

Pictures please!!! :)

June 9, 2012 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Woman Seeking Center said...

The angry horseman comment reminds me of a Ray Bradbury quote:

"You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”

You embrace (and inspire others) to first care about "your own opinion" of yourself, your skills, your life. The core of what matters most. And then from there to the realms of acceptance, rejection and compliments from others....

I think it's one of the most essential lessons (and inspirations) to send out into the world. By sharing the comment and your take on it you've done exactly that ~ bravo Jenna!

June 9, 2012 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

Show us the wheel! Cool about the socks and Merlin and all, too. But I want to see the antique spinning wheel. :)

June 9, 2012 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I see that Merlin and you are becoming riding partners. You know...every horsewoman has to learn all the skills. I think that you are doing just fine. Keep up with regular riding and training...both Merlin and you. If you have the right horse, it makes all the difference!

June 9, 2012 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Gail said...

I often think that we should always remember the old adage "If you don't have anything good to say, say nothing at all." It's sad that some folks are so unhappy that they let their anger loose on someone they don't even know, about something that really doesn't matter. I admire you so much, Jenna, to find your dream and then to fight for it. You are an inspiration!

June 9, 2012 at 7:33 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

So, Lady CAF, what size sock do you wear? Winter knitting underway. Share.

Thank you!

June 9, 2012 at 7:41 PM  
Anonymous HawaiiGal said...

Hi, Jenna, I always felt it was more important to be a good friend to your horse than to be a great rider. And you clearly are his friend. As for the riding - Angry Person apparently skipped that you have wanted a Fell for a long time, are dedicated to learning to ride him correctly (dressage no less!) and that you love him. And have even quite your job which gives you more time for him. Enough said!

June 9, 2012 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger pugoata said...

Ohh, so jealous that you have a wheel. Learning to spin is something I really want to know how to do (since I'm a weaver), so it's awesome you're getting equipment like that for yourself! Maybe I'll a have real loom someday. :)

What a d-bag of a person to say that you're not a real equestrian. Just don't feed the trolls. Merlin sounds awesome.

June 9, 2012 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger Miriam said...

It's amazing to me that there seems to be a never-ending supply of people willing to tell you exactly what you're doing wrong with your horse, your farm, or your life. What is that?! The best I can figure is that some people are so afraid of diving into their dreams that the sight of someone else doing just that is threatening. You have far more patience and grace with these folks than I would - and I'm really glad you're not letting this particular one get you down!

June 9, 2012 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Ohiofarmgirl said...

i think i snorted something out my nose at this "..and write something poetic about learning from mistakes."

ha! haters gotta hate. good for you for getting out there and doing something.

June 9, 2012 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Sewing Machine Girl said...

I never understood the invisible line between equestrian and horse person. Where do we take the written exam to get the certificate that makes us worthy? (if I'm not there start without me) I think whomever it was had become deathly afraid that you had stumbled upon the secret handshake of the horsey set; you have to own a horse. You have become to powerful for them Jenna. Plus you have good taste in socks.

June 9, 2012 at 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know exactly the type of angry, know-it-all horse person you're talking about. It's actually one of the main reasons why I hardly ever showed. I respect the learning of technique and the discipline that goes into showing. I just haaated the people! Gah! For me, riding at its best is what you described doing today. The quiet contemplation out on trail rides, and the bond you develop with your own horse.

June 9, 2012 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger PattyW said...

Joyous ride! When people ask if I ride English or western - my reply: I will ride in anything or nothing! I asked someone to ride with me recently and her excuse was she didnt have a bridle- I remember using baling twine for a bridle- just to ride!

June 9, 2012 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Suzzanne said...

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized anyway" Eleanor Roosevelt

June 9, 2012 at 11:27 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

A wheel Jenna, hooray!!! Glad you had a nice day. Can't wait to spin fleece into gold, or maybe socks:).

June 10, 2012 at 12:31 AM  
Blogger admin said...

With Patty! Although I prefer a western saddle, I cannot say that I normally ride “western”. Lately I’ve been riding until the saddle gets too hot in my new favorite seasonal riding attire: those silky long basketball shorts, t-shirt, and sandals with an icy cold bandana over my head. Never been one to follow “the rules” anyways. Know about those type of horse people too. They’re certainly not worth the trouble of thinking about. Never fit into the cliquey western horse crowd where I spent my teenage years and was glad for it. Later, I found a few down to earth people here and there, but one of the best mentors I ever met was a man who loved mules...I learned so much from him and his unconventional approach to things. Glad you had such a great time. Yes, life is good all the time despite.


June 10, 2012 at 2:16 AM  
Blogger Pamela said...

Good Morning! Well it's morning here and I get to have 15 minutes to myself to catch up on my blog reading....
I was thinking back when you first talked about getting Merlin and all I thought at the time was that this was just another step in the the life of a farm girl. I mean why not? Then all of the negativity started to fly and all I could think was, well how does one become "real"? All I know for certain is "once you are real you can't become unreal again" to quote the skin horse. You are real. People that hide behind fake names and "sock puppet" accounts are not. This is really just for you so you don't need to publish it.

June 10, 2012 at 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jenna.
Could you please post how you make your hard cider? I could look it up but would much rather try yours. I love your blog. You are one gutsy girl. I am a gramma and if I could do my life over I would sure walk in your shoes. Thanks

June 10, 2012 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 10, 2012 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

One of the things about you that inspires me is that you're a little bit like my girlhood idol, Harriet the Spy, who, when someone pointed out that she didn't know something, was never upset or embarrassed, because, after all ... she could always learn. It's a great way to approach life, because it means that all the doors are wide open, allowing maximum opportunity for new experience.

It makes me feel sorry for that person ... to be so angry that they attack that way, it cannot be pleasant to live in their skin. It's great that you see it for what it is.

I've not been able to fin my Merlin yet, but I DID renew my motorcycle insurance, so will be zooming around the highways and byways of Ontario this summer. :-D

June 10, 2012 at 2:12 PM  

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