Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break: Now With 73.6% More Spring!

Well, that was, surreal.

We had freakishly gorgeous weather all week. Even Monday (the "crappy" day) was amazing by March-in-Minnesota standards, and Royal molted all week. It's almost too nice, and I'm expecting the other shoe to fall soon...

Monday it was "cold" (60s) and rainy, and of course Royal took full advantage of that:

He looked so proud of himself when I got him out of the paddock. It's hard work finding the muddiest of the mud, I suppose. I managed to get him somewhat cleanier...

The dark patches are wet hair; apparently the mud was REALLY wet. After this we went ground-driving on the road, which he seemed to find interesting. We haven't done any ground driving in a while, and both of us were a little bit rusty. He still found the area by Needledick's house scary though. I can't say I blame him, since there are scary noises coming from there all the time. Other than that, he did very well.

Tuesday I attempted to do some one-rein riding/prep for bridleless, but that didn't turn out well. I was already in something of a bad mood, and Royal feeds of my moods like crazy. It didn't help that the birds had returned to the arena and were making a lot of noise. Eventually I gave up and took him out on the dirt road. He was a little jittery, so I asked for a trot which turned in a canter. I threw caution to the winds and asked for a hand gallop, and he obliged. He went for a while, before I asked him to slow down and turn around. And run like hell, which he did. Damn that horse is fast. After that, we were able to focus on some stuff in the arena.

Wednesday I decided to torture BJ with some grooming and mane-taming. Which turned out okay. He didn't shed as much as I thought he would, but he was fairly tolerant of my fussing around. Cutting his mane didn't look as good as I hoped (he was kinda squirmy) but it was alright.

I messed with Royal after that, cutting his mane as well. But I discovered a bit of a problem: his mane is REALLY thick in the middle of his neck, around three times as thick as the ends. So no pictures until I get done thinning that section out, which is a very slow process. I'm using the Lynn Palm method of "pulling" the mane, which doesn't seem to bother him too much. But it can't be done in just one session, so I'm going slowly and it's improving. But if I ever get in a financial jam, I could probably sell his hair for something.

Thursday was JUMPING DAY! I began with a lot of ground prep since we haven't done any jumping in the past couple of months. I also had an idea about helping Royal conquer his fear of tarps and stuff on the ground. I thought I was going pretty basic with the Blue Blanket, but it occurred to me that maybe I haven't gone basic enough. So I set up two poles about two feet apart to simulate a ditch. And even that got the hairy eyeball for a second before he hopped over it. For riding, I set up our favorite pole-to-crossrail and a 2-foot single. The actual fences went well (I think I'm getting over my initial nervousness that usually comes with jumping), and I recreated the "ditch," which got a halt with hairy eyeball. Back up, try again with a gargantuan leap over the teeny "ditch." It took a couple more times, before he skipped over it like it was barely there. I think we're getting there.

Friday I had to meet with someone for a while before I could go to the farm, so I only had a little time to play with Royal before I had to go to work. I tried to play with yielding to pressure on the hind legs. He's still pretty iffy on that, which he demonstrated with a lot of kicking and deer-in-the-hindlights expressions. He improved a bit and on Saturday we were able to play a bit with the Blue Blanket. This time the strategy was just to let him retreat as much as he needed and figure it out for himself. He still seems no more comfortable with it, but eventually he'll get it.

Sunday was more Game of Contact, and he is really improving. We're steadily progressing into Stage 3 and he's getting it. He still trying to yank the reins out of my hands at first, but I can really feel him start to hold the contact and drive from his hind end. My posture is also starting to improve, if I can remember everything. Another ride on the road in the sun to close out what has been the best Spring Break I've ever had. I wished it could have lasted forever, but all good things must come to an end.

It was fun while it lasted.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I'm expecting the weather forecasters to show up drunk soon.

I'm no closer to figuring out my career/life plan. I still can't quite let go of the vet path (dreams die hard, I guess), but I'm starting to pursue genetics counseling more. I'm still in the process of gathering information, but I don't really have any firm plans. Except perhaps that I should learn how to bartend.

But, onto to happier things: Royal! The last couple of weeks have been beastly in terms of tests and papers being due, so I haven't had a lot of time to play. But now it's SPRING BREAK and the weather is gorgeous. Like 50s and 60s gorgeous. Royal's begun to molt even more now, and all the fitness he built up during winter break has pretty much gone away. But he's gaining it back and learning the Game of Contact even better. We're starting to move from stretching to holding a steady frame, and he's starting to get it. We've had two sessions of frame, and in the first one, there was a lot of nervous chewing and snatching at the bit. I expected this, since he still has some baggage when it comes to bits and contact. It's not as bad as it used to be (where he would start threatening to rear if I picked up two reins) but I know it's still there. So, it took a while before he stopped being nervous and held the frame for a few steps. I was happy, and we went for a walk on the dirt road to cool down. Apparently, he finds the random patches of snow terrifying, so it was a slow process.

Today, it was even warmer (I ending up riding in a t-shirt!) and he was even better. Some nervousness at the beginning of the GOC portion, but eventually he relaxed and held the contact for a little while both ways. More happiness, more walking on the road, more spooking, and more bravery.

Life is good.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Where to From Here: Career and Life Edition

So, with getting told to take a hike by both vet and public health school, I've had to seriously start thinking about my career goals and options. I know I can apply for both again, but at this point, I have to be seriously practical about what paths I want to take and which I should take. If it were just a matter of being a vet, I would go for it, no questions asked. I would look for any vet related job, no matter how crappy or pig-related. I would apply as many times as needed to every single vet school in the country. And I would be a kick-ass vet. But there's just one thing. Actually two things.

1. A DVM degree has a minimum price tag of ~$200,000, when you add it all up. Tuition, books, living expenses, and interest. For a career that has a mid-to-high 5-figure salary. I look at that and go *gulp*. From the outside looking in, the vet schools seem to have the position of "you were smart enough to get in, you're smart enough to figure out how to pay it off." Maybe I'm wrong and they introduce you to the Magic Fairy Who Makes Your Student Debt Go Poof, but hearing new vets talk about $1200-2000 per month in student loan payments, I doubt it.

2. Job security. I think this is going to be a huge deal for my generation. Going through The Great Recession has given us a very cynical and sobered outlook on life, especially stability. We've seen people get laid off and lose everything, and most of us would like to avoid that, thankyewverymuch. It's also a fact of life that when times get tough, vet care for Fido/Fluffy/Dobbin take a backseat to things like paying for food and housing. I don't blame people for this, but it's also something I have to be aware of.

So, vet school is off the table, and the numbers for Public Health didn't look much better. Now I have to reevaluate, and figure out what exactly I want from a career.

1. Financial security/independence - this is a HUGE one. I want to be able to support myself and my animals very comfortably. I don't need anything luxurious, but I eventually want my own farm and to be able to go to clinics/competitions without worrying whether I can pay the rent/mortgage. And (most importantly) I want to be able to do so easily without having to rely on a second income. Right now, I only have three men in my family that I consider at least half decent, and the thought of becoming partnered with anyone who is anything like the others terrifies me. So, until I go through a couple decades of therapy, I'm swearing off any serious relationships and I never want to be dependent on a man's income.

2. Job Security - also HUGE. This goes hand-in-hand with #1, but I feel it deserves its own category. I don't just want a decent paying career, I want a decent paying career that is absolutely essential to the organization that contains it. The only way I want to involuntarily leave my job is if the entire department/organization disappears. This goes back to being a Millennial, but most of us have seen someone with a "safe" job get sacked. I also don't want to be dependent on grants. So many times research is used as a bargaining chip or an example of wasteful spending ("We're spending MONEY on research?! On things that will help people?! *faints*") I really don't want to have to constantly justify why my work is important and should be continued.

3. Mentally challenging/stimulating - I want boredom to be the exception rather than the rule. 'Nuff said

4. Helping Others - I want to be A Force For Good In The World, ideally. I want to help people and make their lives better. I couldn't stand sitting in a cube or behind a desk filing paper after paper long term. I want to do something that demonstrates a real tangible benefit.

So, what ideas do I have? Right now, the two leading contenders are pharmacy and genetics counseling. Both fulfill all the above criterion, and they're still related to medicine. Now the plan of action is to start exploring both of those, starting with the programs at the U. What kinds of schooling is needed, what the career outlook is, cost/income, if I have to take any other undergrad classes later, etc. Right now, I'm mostly focused on gathering information and finding a job after I graduate.

So many things to think about.