Thursday, February 24, 2011

Share your blogs with me!

Wahoo - I hit 100 followers yesterday! I'm so thankful, honored, and still a bit stunned that so many people want to hear me blather on about my life =D So thank you!

BUT, I was realizing that I'm not following a lot of your blogs - I would absolutely, genuinely LOVE to hear all about your adventures, so if you have a blog that you'd like to share, please leave it in the comment section so I can start reading!

Also, I thought I would give a brief plug to my two other blogs (because yes, I do obviously have some sort of blogging addiction):

With 10 Miles Behind Me is an attempt at a photo-a-day project that I've been doing for just under 2 years now, where every-ish day I post one (hopefully nice) photo and a little quote or thought.

(This was yesterday's photo - I use a nice wordpress template that displays photos wayyy better than this site)

The End of Porch Season is something I started this past December that is basically this blog's twin (if you will visit it, you will notice some conspicuous design similarities!!) but covers the non-horsey side of living in England. As always, I try to include lots of descriptive photos in every post, though these are mostly of travel adventures and brief glimpses of British sunshine.

Also, I spent more time than I'd like to admit last night revamping this site by adding labels back into all my previous posts, so that you can now go over to the little keyword cloud on the sidebar and look up posts by subject and not just be date. I've also added a "You May Also Like" feature to the bottom of my posts. Cool!

So please, link me to your blogs! I can't wait to start reading =)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ringo on Youtube!

I'm probably one of the least computer savvy people I know - when I took Intro to Computer Science at Stanford, a class that pretty much everyone takes and whose first class is literally identifying parts of the computer like "monitor" and "keyboard," I was part of the 'elite' 5% of the class who didn't get an A. Embarrassing.

So, when I finally (as in, nine months after the fact!) figured out how to post videos to Youtube, it was a HUGE success. Here is a video from my first Third Level test with Ringo from the Woodside dressage show last May. Many many thanks to the Hulme family for taping me!! As I was watching it last night before uploading it, it was making me seriously itchy to get to ride Ringo again. I can't believe, except for that one walk around the field before he left for Suzi's, that next time I'll get on him it will have been nine and a half months since our last ride! Apparently he's doing really well in Aiken, and so hopefully I can do a little walking and trotting with him while I'm down there. Can. Not. Wait. =)

It's very fun to look at it and remember what I need to work on (being more tactful with my aids to smooth out transitions, carrying my hands better (!!), preparing for the changes, and being more accurate are just a few of the many, many, things to work on!) and to dream about what may lie down the road ahead (hopefully even bigger and better things than this, though even if I just get to walk trot and canter with him comfortably again I'll be a happy girl). Also, what a good boy!!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I apologize for the total lack of posting on my part recently. Not only has my life had a rather unfortunate ratio of work to horses of late (in fact, my only horse sighting of past week and change has been cart horses in the city... not exactly the most thrilling), but, I must admit, I've also been gripped with an idea that is quickly verging on the insane.

I've decided to run a marathon.

(I've even entered - holy god!)

Now, before this comes off as TOTALLY out of the blue and not properly thought out (I will grant you that it is probably a bit of those things to a certain degree), let me explain further. As I've mentioned before, I used to run in high school. In fact, running actually became probably as important to me as academics for a brief period (if never quite so important as horses), though I failed to ever achieve competitive results that would explain such devotion. Instead, the reason that I loved it was because I had been such a little fat child growing up that the discovery that I could actually run long distances and enjoy it was a totally revolutionary idea to me. I just couldn't get enough of it. Some of my fondest memories from high school, outside of horse shows, are of going for long quiet runs through the woods around my school, or of the very few times that I distinguished myself as a racer on my high school team (like the time I actually helped my team win New Englands in a snow storm!! The stuff only an eventer could love).

(Middlesex girls bring it home - when I was injured my senior year I became the unofficial team photographer, which at the time was a completely new role for me as I didn't know much about photography and wasn't particularly interested in it... funny how things change!)

When, after my junior year, I first starting considering taking a year off between high school and college, I made a big list of things that I'd like to accomplish in that time. One of first items on the list was a marathon. I even looked up southern marathons that I could train for in Aiken and work around major competitions (because, yes, I am that big of a nerd). It seemed like the perfect way to both test and celebrate this new athletic passion that had so transformed my high school experience, from just being a bookish horse girl to a bookish horse girl who considered herself an athlete (which honestly, before starting to run, I never had).

(My first Varsity sports team - Middlesex Girls' Cross Country)

And then my senior year happened. High school drama all seems pretty low-intensity in retrospect, but injuring my Achilles tendon, inadvertently scarring my lungs by inhaling too much printmaking fixative (which involved a LOVELY jaunt to the ER), getting such bad anemia that I couldn't walk to the top of a single flight of stairs without getting winded, and then having to turn one of my closest friends into the police for revealing to me that he had plans to kill my other closest friend and watching approximately half my friend group get suspended or expelled over the course of the year all made for pretty unhappy times. The athletic injuries got to me especially hard, because I had built a large part of who I thought I had become in high school around my newfound athleticism. The fact that my cross country coach/art history teacher (of course, the class that I also cared the most about) handled my injuries by telling me that I just wasn't trying hard enough and then completely writing me off and ignoring me for the rest of the year was just extra salt in the wound. Suddenly, by end of November I'd let all the joy that running had brought me be turned into bitterness and failure. I not only didn't want to run a marathon, I never wanted to run a step again in my life if I could avoid it.

(Me and my friend Charlene cool down verrryyy slowly at the end of what would be my last ever race)

That bitterness stayed with me for a long time. I remember the one time I tried to go for a run on my year off, in the spring of the year after graduation, within a quarter mile of setting off I found myself totally overwhelmed with all the worst memories of high school: all the worst things my coach had ever said to me, all the feelings of disappointment, all the aching moments of regret. I sat down on the side of the road, began to cry, and didn't stop for over an hour. It was as if running contained all my synthesized and compartmentalized grief over the mistakes I'd made, and trying to engage in that activity again brought everything that I'd tried so hard to forget about come flooding back to the surface. I was too afraid and too unwilling to face those issues then; I just wanted to push them away again. So, running became an absolute taboo.

(The comradery that I loved about cross country - also the car in the background was my coach's, and I still can't look at it in this picture without a little squirm of unhappiness)

Over the years since, I've very slowly unpacked my feelings about that time in my life and come to terms with them. In retrospect, I can look back and realize how incredibly lucky I was and how many great opportunities I was provided without getting too bogged down with the what-ifs. I still have regrets and some very deep sadnesses about what happened, but they don't bother me as much any more. Most importantly, I realized that a great deal of my unhappiness was tied up in other people's expectations of me. With my coach especially, I allowed his behavior to have a serious effect on my own happiness. While I still struggle with this (and it was a definite factor in why things unraveled so badly last winter), I've become much more aware of the necessity of not basing my own mental state on what I think other people expect or want from me, and I keep trying to get better at finding that self-confident place.

(Middlesex girls warm up for a home race... yes, my school was absurd looking)

So, this winter I faced the prospect of finding new non-horsey ways to get fit, and, feeling rather bold, I decided to give running another try. And to my delight, I could actually enjoy myself again! I don't think there's more concrete evidence for the progress I've made since high school than that. Now I'm enjoying my running possibly more than I did before, because I remember how much I used to love it and am reveling in getting to love it again, which I honestly never thought I could do.

And so to sum up this incredibly long-winded story, that is why I've decided to do this. I want to celebrate my renewed passion and finally get to achieve the goal that I had to bitterly shelf four years ago. I don't have any illusions about running fast (and believe me if I had, my first few runs would have corrected me of those thoughts), but I want to finish. I've got a training book to help me that I'm finding super inspirational and am currently on track to start training in the first week of March, which means that I'm currently jogging 30mins, 4 times a week. If all goes well, I'll run in the Midnight Sun Marathon in Tromsø, Norway, on 25 June 2011. Very excited!!

Meanwhile, it just occurred to me that in just over three weeks, I'll be in Aiken. How cool is that? I've been seriously enjoying the British lifestyle, but will also be pretty glad to be back in the good ol' USA again for a while.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Guess what came in the mail...

My Badminton tickets!!

Getting my stuff in the mail was the first time that it really hit me that this is actually happening; I'm actually going to get to go! I know I've said it a bunch of times before, but I still can't get over what a huge life dream it's been for me to see Badminton. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to go; only 66 more days =D

Thursday, February 10, 2011


So, as I've probably alluded to several times now, one of my major concerns about stopping riding and coming to Oxford has been about falling horribly, miserably out of shape. I was a little fat child growing up and have very bitter memories of not being able to run a mile and having to shop at speciality stores because I was quickly outsizing normal retail (and you think I'm joking...), and so am a little more paranoid than most, I think, about getting soft again. It's not about being fat, but it's about wanting to be able to keep on leading the active lifestyle that I've come to love so much.

So far I've been pretty bad, and besides a few desultory jogs and polo outings (and a LOT of worrying) I haven't been doing a whole lot physically. Add that in with the British penchant for cream-based anything (I actually had cream-based raita last night - new levels of disturbing officially achieved), chips (that's fries to us Yanks, and they are actually served at every meal at my college - one time the designated vegetarian dinner was actually pasta with red sauce, garlic bread, and fries - WHAT), and delicious biscuits and candies... and we've got ourselves the making of a situation.

When I saw a report on the USOC fitness test on Eventing Nation, then, it was a good jolt to get serious again about staying in shape. Kiki and Ringo are currently getting fit and ready in South Carolina - how stupid would it be for me to get back not strong enough to give them the ride they deserve?? I took the test myself today (minus the sprints because the actual test they did was never really explained and it was pouring down rain today so I elected to stay indoors). Results were:

Planks - 1:00
Pitiful!! The best at the USOC testing was 7:00! Though I honestly think that that's kind of insane. I think a good goal for me would be 2:00 by the end of the quarter, because even getting 1:00 today was... rough. I've never been very good at these (I used to have to do them for crew and squash), which probably means that I'm not as strong in my core as I want to admit, and so it would definitely something that, if I improved, would have a concrete effect on my riding.

Squats - 100
You know, I was pretty happy with this one. Sure, it doesn't even start to come close to the 360 that Jennie Brannigan and Doug Payne laid down (!!!), but I was pretty pleased to at least break into triple digits. Squats, while not great for keeping legs slim and non-pants-exploding, help me a lot with staying strongly balanced over my feet even as the angles of my body change (always something I need to work on, as my natural balance isn't anything to write home about), and so have been a fall-back rainy day exercise for a while now. I think a good goal for the end of the quarter would be 150.

Sprints - ??
I didn't do the sprints because I have no idea what the format was that they used at the USOC tests. I was never a sprinter in high school, anyway, and so would probably supplant this part of the test with just trying to get out and run more - I used to run track and cross country in high school, but got super burnt out and went on literally 3 runs total in the period between November 2006 and January 2011; in light of that, any participation is a win! I can currently do one lap and some change of the 1.5-mile loop by the Stanford house, and would like to be able to do two laps comfortably by the end of the quarter.

Just like the USOC riders who will get retested before Rolex, I'm going to work over the next few weeks and retest myself at the end of the quarter. Here's to a stronger, fitter me by then!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Just as I'd feared, this week has ended up being totally insane from a work perspective: 10 page paper on Tuesday, 4 page paper today, and then trying to prepare a few hundred pages of reading (except really) in preparation for the THREE ten page papers I have to write over the weekend. Geez. The weird thing is that since all of my classes only meet so rarely, I only actually have 4 class meetings a week, so I don't actually feel like I'm... going to school. It's sort of like finals week, where you have no classes but have to spend every waking hour in the library, except all the time. I've spent 24 hours in the library over the past three days (how tragic is that??) with a prospect of a lot more to come over the next few days.

SO, it was even more delightful when I got to take a little break yesterday to play some polo! It was, for one of the first times so far this winter, both sunny and fairly warm (I only had one coat on!). I got to ride my good pal Number 1 again, who, besides being incredibly lazy, was a good boy. I felt a bit floppier than usual (probably going to be a continuing trend with the minimal amount of riding I've been getting and will continue to get - arrrghhh) but still had an amazing, amazing time. Literally, I couldn't stop smiling at the end - I couldn't imagine a better possible way to take a study break =)

Its hard to believe that in just five weeks, I'll get to see my own ponies again. Starting to get really excited!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Horseless Weekend

It was pretty sad to wake up this morning and realize that I wasn't going to the track: my Saturday excursions have become one of my favorite little escapes from the otherwise fairly intense program I'm in at Oxford, both as a chance to watch some beautiful horses (and, more recently, to get into the thrill of watching the races!!) and as an opportunity to work on my sports photography and my understanding of my camera's little quirks. Eventing season is only a few months away, after all... And if I can't participate in it, I might as well do a good job watching and photographing other people!!

But, at the same time, it was pretty hard to complain: I was on a two day trip funded by my overseas program to Canterbury and Dover that included tours of Hampton Court Palace, Canterbury Cathedral, and Dover Castle, as well as a nice dinner and an overnight stay in Canterbury-- all for free, due to the kind donation of the Bing family (who also are the main benefactors of all Stanford abroad programs -- thank you, Bings!!). It was a bit cold and blustery - apparently winds topped 45 mph on top of Dover Castle while we were there - and we had the rudest tour guide I've ever met in my life at Canterbury Cathedral, but other than that it was a great experience.

(A cool day at Hampton Court Palace)

(Why I'm going to be too fat to ride by the time I get back to the US... British candy = heaven)

(Canterbury Cathedral, before our crazy tour guide showed up and made everything rullll stressful)


(My hair getting blown straight back in a 45 mph wind on top of the Guard Tower at Dover)

And, I get to play polo again on Tuesday!! Something I'm most definitely looking forward to, as the past week (outside of the trip) has definitely been one of the more stressful of the program so far, and so I'll be happy to get out and get a little pony-time to unwind a bit =)

(My one horse spotting of the week, through the window of the coach at a stoplight - what a cute little beast)

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