Thursday, April 29, 2010

Strangers In The Night

Everyone I know is having a baby. The amount of couples Tom and I are friends or acquaintances with who have either just had a baby, are adopting a baby or are just about to have a baby is starting to scare me. We actually took a tally one night after another friend of ours announced their pregnancy and lost count around 15. That’s 15 new lives entering the world just within our social 10 degrees.

Inevitably, along with the announcements comes the question. It’s the question all newly-weds get usually from family or friends who are disconnected enough to NOT know they have too much going on to even see each other, much less discuss this ever-looming question.

“So how about you guys? Are you trying?”

And then, for a short moment in time, Tom and I exchange a glance that reflects exactly what we both are experiencing. It’s as if we had both been transported back to elementary school being forced to join some uncomfortable event our parents were putting on—kicking and screaming to get away from being forced into some stiff suit or horrible ruffled dress with matching laced socks. It usually ends in a simultaneous scream from our inner child. NO!

But we respectfully respond with some sort of “We’re happy to wait until we’re ready” line and promptly move the conversation into more comfortable territory. Puppies and kittens and ponies, puppies and kittens and ponies—all together now!

It’s not that we don’t want a family. We already have a family. A dog, cat, horse, bird and husband are more than enough “kids” for me. Besides, not that I don’t LOVE New York City, I just don’t see myself hauling a baby and stroller up and down subway stairs several times everyday. It annoys me now and I’m not even experiencing it! What would happen if it did? I might have a meltdown. I want my kid to be able to run in our yard and fall into grass—not concrete and glass. Props to those of you who do it. You are truly amazing people, it’s just not for me.

So, the topic of babies came up last night at a bar with some friends from work. I’m one of the few married ladies in the office, so the interrogation began with that. I quickly brushed away the cold chill that typically takes over my body and answered with “I’ve got a kid already...a few actually, but the horse and husband are the highest maintenance!”

And then it happened. I pulled out my phone and started to share pictures of my horse and dog. I couldn’t believe it. I was doing that thing that parents do...I basically pulled out my wallet and gave my friends a slideshow of my children! I had to stop myself and apologized to them. I had crossed over and never realized it. I was deeply disturbed by this. I had always talked of my animals as second nature if conversation began to dry up, but this happened in a bar! I am so socially out of touch that the only thing I can really carry on a good hearty discussion of is about my kids!

I’m going to take a step back here a moment. I’m a professional working in a very competitive environment. I am in my mid-twenties and living in NYC, where the possibilities for trouble and mischief are innumerable. My husband is in a rock band. What happened to me that I am reserved to only find interest in anything away from the city? All I want to do when I get out of work is to either get home as soon as humanly possible to relax quietly on the couch or go out the the barn and see Eclipse.

I just simply have no interest in NYC nightlife. I don’t need to go out and look for someone to go home with, most of my friends stay at home for work reasons and most of all, I just don’t have the money to go out drinking when I can just as well do that at home and be more comfortable at the same time. Tom shares my sentiments, but is much more adamant about the money part. The most action we see is usually at one of his shows, and that’s a dose of energy that usually lasts most of the month for me.

Another problem I face is narrowing down a single event from the hundreds of options the city offers. It’s just too much for one person to really comprehend. Where do you Go?! Anywhere could be fun or horribly disappointing, but how do you know? You just have to try it right? And if it doesn’t work out you just go somewhere else. That kind of thing doesn’t work for someone like me with a very limited window of “fun time”. I have to count my hours and minutes and schedule it all out to the very second. Variables don’t work for me.

So, for now, I think I’ll just be OK with the crazy pet lady who reserves her time to give love and be responsible for the lives dependent on her. Perhaps I should schedule out an “exploration day” a couple of times a month to just go out and let spontaneity take over for a while. Hopefully when that day comes it will be slightly raining and I won’t want to go to the barn, because that’s always my default response when the city overwhelms me.

Ok, Manhattan, let’s give it another go, you and I. We’re going to be friends whether we like it or not. You and me, me and you. The possibilities are endless! I'll pencil you in for, oh let's say...five years from now. Playing! No really, how's two weeks from now? No, I'll call you...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Manhattan Saddlery: A Haunt for the City-Dwelling Equine-Inclined

“There is a tack store in the city!” I announced, gasping, to the entire office Friday afternoon.

I received only one whispering response from my coworker in the neighboring cube, “What’s tack?”

Sometimes I lose track of what side of Brooklyn I’m on. Regardless, I got very little work done in the proceeding hours because I couldn’t stop scouring the Manhattan Saddlery online catalogue for the items on my “need NOW” list. Specifically, I was looking for a new helmet to fit my child-sized adult cranium. Very few tack shops or online dealers carry a 6 5/8 GPA or IRH at a reasonable price, so I thought I’d take a look.

Tom and I work a few avenues over from one-another, so when he got out of work I roped him into the fun. We walked down a quiet stretch of 24th street to find this most elaborate tack store nestled in between a parking lot and another nondescript shop of some sort. Upon opening the door I felt I had been transported into an equine Narnia through a wardrobe. I felt like I was 13 years old again. Everything was beautiful, everything was clean and new with that wonderful new leather smell. Of course everything was inflated to reflect Manhattan prices, but I still felt I had arrived in heaven. A tack store! In the city!

I only had a little while to look around before the shop closed and the store attendants were readying the displays for final lock-up. I quickly tried on some helmets and found the correct size for the GPA and IRH models I was looking for but didn’t buy. Even their sale prices were too high for me. I came to terms with the fact that this place would be more of a recreational retreat than a practical resource for all my riding needs (unless of course I hit it big in the lottery, then maybe I’ll spend a few thou... Yeah right).

I was told by one of the girls there that the store used to be an old harness maker’s shop. Some of the original interior details are still intact which make this place even more interesting. The floor slightly creaks in certain areas, creating an interesting feeling of an old farm house or Victorian era artisan home. Honestly, it feels a little like American Gothic meets Hogwarts. The wood columns and beams were all dark and strong-looking, with brass and wrought iron accents scattered throughout. I wanted to explore more, but I had to leave as they were closing.

I will go back. It was an interesting little find, and I certainly never expected it to be there. The clientel were what I expected. Their usual patrons are mostly Manhattan residents who keep their horses in Westchester at some of the most famous and posh equine training facilities you can imagine. There was certainly an air of if-it’s-not-the-best-I-don’t-want-it, which has always intimidated me (ok...pissed me off in most cases) but the sales girls seemed down-to-earth enough and were very accommodating and helpful.

I was just happy to find a bit of fresh air I could relate to. Everyone’s got their thing. If you’re a snowboarder, I’m sure you would be just as enthralled with the Burton store downtown. You may not be able to afford the boards, but that doesn’t stop you from ogling the boards and bindings and apparel fit for only the best athletes and fashion trends (or simply, whoever can afford it).

No, this will be a haunt for me when I need a little quiet time to breathe in the smell of new leather and take in the glitter of new bits, irons and buckles.  This may well be my new hidden hideaway when I need a little more horse for my city.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Reset Button

They let us out of work early last night. It was one of those days I was sitting and counting the seconds until we were officially allowed to leave. I tend to get anxious toward the end of the day anyway, but last night I was tapping my feet so violently I may have found it possible to eject myself from the building with minimal effort.

The worst is when “the man” says everyone came leave at a certain time of day, and that time comes and everyone’s still at their desks. We begin to exchange nervous instant messages throughout the office “Are you leaving?”, “No, I’m waiting for more people to leave!” and before you know it, it’s 20 minutes past and everyone’s still at their desk.

I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had already suffered a mighty blow by looking out the window at the newly moistened streets below, which rain drops fell spitefully in my face from the window ledge. Rain, or shine, I had an early night and I was going to see my horse! I gathered my things, though my coworkers were still earnestly working, and sprinted for the door. But then I came back to tell my boss (who was out of the office) that I was leaving.  I hung up the phone and became a woman on a mission. Get OUT of my way, people!

I dashed home, threw off my suffocating work clothes, pulled on my riding tights, tee shirt, boots, half chaps and I was outta there! I ran to my car. It was 5:30 and I was on my way to a full 2 hour ride before dark. Life is grand!

But, no. No, I was thwarted again, this time by something I certainly couldn’t control.


I think I hate New York City sometimes simply because of the traffic. I could say this about anywhere really. Just fill in the blank: I hate ____ because of the traffic. Everywhere I’ve lived it’s been the same. Perhaps now I will appreciate a 20 minute commute in my future city of residence. 

I tend to become agitated whenever a Manhattan resident complains they have to take a 15 minute train ride to work each day. I’m sooo sorry you have to go across town. That just makes my heart bleed for you, as I grind my teeth at the memory of the 16 year old on the train during my morning commute blasting her horrible music via speaker phone for the entire train to suffer through. That must just be awful.

I don’t always feel so full of angst, but in traffic, all bets are off and I, 7 times out of 10, become irate at one thing or another. The car smells, the radio DJ sucks, my back hurts, so-and-so at the office pissed me off, I can’t think of anything creative and just simply--I'm annoyed.

After an hour and a half drive that should have been 35 minutes, I finally arrive at the barn. I have the place to myself and all the stress from the road and the week leading to that point melted away. Eclipse met me at the gate and I forgot about all of my concerns. His sweet little face wipes away all of my stress lines. I should advertise him as a wrinkle cream.

We had a very rewarding hour-long ride in the arena after a rather intense grooming session in the barn. Eclipse was wearing his blanket when I showed up and it seems it hasn’t been off since I put it on four days ago. I lifted the blanket away only to find probably a wig’s-worth pile of hair stuck to his body. The poor thing was so hot and couldn’t shed the hair out. I felt awful.

He certainly enjoyed the curry comb and slick n’ easy block. He made twitching motions with his nose, closing his eyes and yawning to let me know when I found the right spots to scratch. I laughed. It was so silly, but it made me oh so happy.

So, as I made my way home, closing the gates behind me and turning away from my living reset-button, I finally felt calm again. My shoulders assumed their natural position several inches under my ears instead of above them, the traffic didn’t bother me, the radio DJ’s horrible playlist didn’t bother me, my lack of good CD’s in the car didn’t bother me. I was just content to let the road unfold under my tires, while the smell of freshly clipped grass gave way to the flicker of the Manhattan skyline. 

Here I am again—in the city, and I feel fine.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tickles, Stretches and a Shorter Drive

Last November Tom and I just couldn't take the madness of roommates anymore (another story all together...or stories I should say) so we moved everything we owned into an empty loft across the hall. We were very happy with the building itself, location and overall vibe of everything that we just couldn't find anything better except the smaller apartment our neighbor's were vacating. We went through a few months of contractor hell, but all-in-all we were happy as clams to just have a little peace and quiet for once with a little room to stretch out our legs and finally get comfortable.

So, after such a turnaround in my emotions, relationship and overall attitude regarding the change of scenery, I naturally started reflecting a bit regarding Eclipse's digs. We were certainly comfortable enough. We had good friends, more trails than we could ever wish for and a safe environment. The down side? The arena was the turnout paddock, so riding was distracting at times, there were no lights for night riding and it was almost an hour's drive away not counting time spent in traffic, which is a given most days after work hours.

I wanted so badly to visit him after work most nights, but after arriving home at 7pm and facing another hour sitting...I just couldn't do it. My rides home were always the worst. I needed coffee to stay awake through the drive and by the time I got home I was too awake to go to sleep, even if it was past my bed time.

But, really, what is worse than the drive, worse than the hours of sleep lost, worse than any of it; the lack of bond between me and my horse. Why should I want to go out of my way to see him? He's just going to act as if I'm killing him just to pet him a little.

I couldn't do it anymore. He needed to be closer, and it needed to happen soon.

I started my search for a barn. I had a few new requirements:

 - If it's the same distance or farther away, the new barn has to have a covered arena so I can at least drive at night when I get there...because, of course, it will be late.
 - If it's closer, it must have a boarding fee of no more extra than what I would be saving in gas and have a lit or covered arena.
 - No matter what, it MUST have a lit arena so I can come out and ride at night.

These prerequisites are somewhat hard to meet in the NYC area. I say somewhat but I really mean impossibly, unfathomably and disappointingly. I probably called over 50 stables as far away as Blairsville, NJ!!

The stables I called were either horribly over priced, too far away, lacked proper facilities or didn't take certain breeds. The boarding fees ranged between $350-$2400 in a 2 hour radius from my home. The lower the board, the farther away, the closer to home, the higher the rate. I couldn't win. I occassionally found a place close enough with a reasonable enough rate, but once I toured the facilities I immediately threw out the possibilities for very serious reasons. Of course I won't name any one place I'm speaking of, but let's just say there were more than a few very sad stables.

I was starting to give up. I didn't think anything existed along the lines of what I was picturing, and if it did, it was going to cost me much more than I was comfortable with. I work in magazines, and let's face it, I'm not getting paid enough to really support daily living costs here, but less costs for a horse--especially if his rent was more than mine!!

After a month of searching, a friend came across a place I hadn't considered. I arranged a meeting and was pleasantly surprised. It was small but quaint, clean and had a single lit arena (relatively lit...enough to work out some at night anyway), a beautiful little barn, separate privacy paddocks and trails. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. All of this, a definite upgrade, for only $50 more a month than I was already paying! I decided on the spot this is Eclipse's new home! I was so thrilled to be able to keep him in Long Island. We were only moving about 15 miles closer, but it would definitely make a difference.

I waited a couple of weeks to move him. I needed my trainer's help because he has trailering issues, but after a few hours of work and personalized training, Eclipse loaded (for about the 8th time) and we were off!

It's been a breath of fresh air ever since. We have enough room to do some conditioning and enough socializing to keep my social butterfly happy, trails and new areas to explore. Best of all: I was able to drive out after work tonight and see him. I spent an hour and a half grooming him and playing stretching games.

Already I can see a huge improvement in our relationship. He walked to greet me at the gate, which he never does, and was completely patient and steady on the cross ties with no fuss. He thoroughly enjoyed stretches and massages and I've now discovered some of his favorite spots for scratches and rubs. I have never seen him crinkle his nose or yawn so much before! I could tell he was grateful, because once I finished and gave him a pat on the neck he rubbed his face on my arm. It made me really happy. I think we're making progress...

Good night, Eclipse.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tutt Tutt Looks like Rain!

It’s threatening to rain. The clouds are taking on this physical “gloom-and-doom” appearance that reminds me of Gotham in Batman movies. You never see the sun in that place. It’s like it doesn’t even exist. It’s not raining, but it’s not sunny. It’s not cold, but it’s not warm—not entirely pleasant or uncomfortable. It’s just...overcast.

Departing for work on a day like this presents several challenges. First off, you can’t run to your car from your house or from your car to the office door if you forgot an umbrella or sensible shoes, because the average walk to the nearest subway station from wherever you’re starting or departing is an average of at least a few blocks (short or long). Secondly, if you’re late for work and made it all the way to the door of the building before discovering the monsoon outside, turning back to face those few flights of stairs you’re going to have to ascend is discouraging. If you’re late you’re late, so what’s a few more minutes to turn back and get an umbrella and reassess your wardrobe? If you weren’t late yet, you soon will be once you turn back.

For me, forgetting an umbrella on a rainy day is a pure act of negligence. A fourth of my apartment is a wall of windows. If I fail to notice it’s raining until I reach the bottom of my four story walk-up then I deserve whatever’s coming to me. I wore sandals to work today thinking the dark clouds outside were sporting a bad poker face. I’m reevaluating my observation skills as I’ve just looked out the window, 30 floors up, and seen the streets and sidewalks suddenly polka-dotted with moving umbrellas. Forgot that too. Perhaps in a few hours the streets will only be a little soggy and I’ll have missed the actual precipitation all together.

Similarly, this happens on my way to the barn frequently. Being a “city girl” I usually only get to see Eclipse on the weekends, something I’ve recently attempted to remedy by moving him to a closer barn. A typical weekend morning for me involves throwing on whatever articles of clothing are nearest the bed, tying a bandanna around my mess of hair, doing a cursory once-over in the bathroom and bolting out the door. I usually double back inside at least once before starting my drive out to Long Island.

Then I turn on my car. And my windshield wipers?! Few things are more agonizing than rain on my weekends—especially because Eclipse hates water.

What's worse than riding a horse in the rain that hates water? A rider who hates rain. These forces combined equal one unhappy duo on a rainy weekend. Especially when the rider steps out of her car and realizes she forgot to not wear the boots with a hole in both soles. Soggy socks. Soggy day.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Sweet Smell of Poop, I mean Spring

Where I'm from, you know spring is coming at the appearance of two things: daffodils and dogwood blossoms. There are neither in my current neck of the woods, so how am I supposed to know it's spring?! Oh yeah...that guy...the weather man who LIES to me! I'm on the him...his sneaky manipulation tactics don't work on me. Not that well anyway. It's been in the 30's and 40's here and rainy for weeks, and I want to know where the sun is! What have you done with her?!

Since I don't have dogwoods or daffodils to warn me of the impending regeneration of life I guess I have to rely on my horse's coat...or lack thereof. I know spring is on it's way when I can stroke my horse and get a handful of hair back for my effort. Most people I know hate that, but I love it. Besides, there's not much for him to lose anyway. Thank you, Eclipse, you sweet considerate little arab. I spent how much money on blankets? I don't want to think about it.

Spring in the city. I've only experienced one up to this point, and I don't remember it very well. All I've seen so far is rain and apart from that-- no leaves, no flowers (aside from the oh-so-rare indoor cultivated lobby presentation variety), no twittering birds, no nothing.


I took a half day off from work today to meet a new trimmer for Eclipse. On my way from the city to my car in Brooklyn on the subway I experienced something so refreshing, I forgot momentarily I was underground.

I was sitting, reading a book and the door of the train opened and closed and with it came the unmistakable smell of horse. My head bolted upward, nose searching through stale b.o. and worn shoe smells. Where is it coming from?! I shamelessly sniff my jacket and pants thinking it's me, and wondering if I perhaps forgot to wash something before wearing it to work (like I care if they are bothered by my favorite perfume! Pah!). But no, to my disappointment, it's not me.

Then, a man sits diagonally across from me wearing some very nice breeches, boots, spurs and half chaps. I think I stopped myself from speaking to him about 20 times. I wanted so badly to ask him where he was riding or had ridden! It was so refreshing, seeing one of my kind. I was searching my mind for anything identifiable on my person he would be able to recognize in a fellow horse-person, but I had nothing! Not even a button with Eclipse's face on it! For shame...

I wore a smile the rest of the way to the barn. It made me so happy to see and smell something familiar somewhere I feel so awfully foreign. But why couldn't I just speak up and say something? Anywhere else I would have introduced myself immediately, but for whatever reason, there were no words justifiable for fear of any embarrassment that may have sprung from the conversation.

What was really awesome about this though, was the fact that it wasn't fashion. I see so many fashionable women's magazines prompting readers to order breeches and riding boots from State Line Tack or Dover Saddlery merely for wearing to the office! Of course I rejoiced at the idea of an excuse to wear my riding attire to work and get away with it but my spirits were slightly dampened at the realization that once my coworkers got a whiff of that ever-so dominant smell of manure my fashion do would turn quickly into a fashion don't-for-the-love-of-all-that-is-good-and-holy! NO!

Sigh. What's worse about all of this is that I'm so much more humiliated for my barn friends to see me in actual work clothes than my riding pants and tee-shirt, because it means I won't be riding. Oh, the agony of heals in a dirt paddock. It's just unnatural.