Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Personal Finance and Personal Priorities

I'm going to talk about something a little different today. I had a wonderful lesson, nailed that shoulder-in on Pete, but this last week I finally got put on salary at my job, and so I have been spending a lot (too much?) of time on recalibrating my finances.

It's not a sexy subject. It's not very fun. But it is the single best tool at my disposal to influence my future.

No, seriously. It's more important than my career, or even my law degree.

If I find the perfect job in Seattle, and am lucky enough to actually get an offer, my personal finances can wreck that dream. Moving costs money, and in this market selling my home would take time. Right now, I could not afford to rent a place in another state or city and pay my mortgage at the same time. Would I be able to accept that dream job?

I would like to return to Japan and finish earning my fluency certificate. Right now, I have debts that I would have to pay at the same time as paying for living expenses in Tokyo. I already have plenty of student loan debt, and while I can do an in-school deferment while I am in Japan, I do not want to add too much to that while I am going to school there. If I were accepted into the program, could I afford to go?

I place a high priority on both travel and taking care of my horses. This means that, unless I am willing to sell them (I'm not), I would have to support my horses and myself as I wander about the globe, join the peace corps, or pursue language immersion. Can I afford to do both?

The current answer to all three of these questions is Not Yet. The only way that not yet doesn't turn into not ever is if I get my spending under control, work towards earning more, and save a significant portion of my income. 

Unsexy. But so was studying for the bar. So was busting my ass mucking stalls every day during college so I could afford to keep Avalon at a boarding stable where he would receive quality care. So was spending hours a day memorizing kanji before and after class.

All those things paid off eventually. So will this.

I need to remind myself constantly that my daily decisions (especially whether to eat out or not) affect my long term goals. This is really true for everything in life: weight loss, riding, learning languages. I feel like I struggle with this far more often than I would like. I feel like a failure more often than I feel like I'm on the right track.

There's a blog called The Simple Dollar. The author is someone I greatly admire, and his philosophy towards money and priorities in life is something I really see the wisdom in. His priority is his children. That's not going to be my priority, but I do see how aligning personal finances with personal priorities leads to happier, more meaningful lives.

The trick is making it happen day after day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Well, Duh.

I rode with a friend of mine yesterday and asked her to take a look at my attempts at a shoulder-in with Pete. She'd seen me do them during lessons so I was hoping she'd be able to tell me what's so different that's making it not work.

She told me I should try it at the trot.

If you can headdesk in a saddle, I did it.

Oh, and at the trot? It worked beautifully.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Riding Update

I have a lesson scheduled for Monday - and I NEED it. I never seem to get very far when I'm on my own. For instance, this week I was trying to get good shoulder ins from my two horses, who are completely capable of doing this, and who's toplines need some more muscle (especially Avalon) for my peace of mind. Shoulder ins help build up those muscles.

I think I started out really good. Get decent on the bit trotwork going, spend some time shortening and lengthening the trot, do some leg yields on a small circle to the rail, get some good lengthened trotwork on the diagonal and some nice collection coming around the corner out of it. All of that worked well for me, on both horses. Then I start the shoulder in.


I get something a little more like a shoulder in from Avalon, but there's something off about his hind end. I don't know what it is, and I have no one on the ground to tell me why he feels weird. His shoulder is mostly in the right place, and his head and neck are probably a little too bent to the inside. Not quite there.

Pete, on the other hand, thinks I'm a blinking idiot and just walks on the rail with his head and neck bent way too far towards the inside. As soon as I get his shoulder off the rail, he swings it back into line with his hind end. I cannot for the life of me get it right, not even for a split second.

Pete's definitely the horse I'm taking my lesson on.

Outside of my complete failure to practice a new skill and simultaneously limber and build muscle on my horses, things went OK. Avalon is still giving me this dainty miniature trot he's been giving me since he came off my attempted barefoot disaster, but I can usually get him to give me his big swinging trot after the canterwork, and sometimes just after some good trotwork. It's something that's worrying me, but he hasn't taken a lame step since I put shoes back on him, so I think it's just that it hurt for so long he got into the habit of trotting defensively. Or maybe I'm just taking more contact because I rode Pete for so long, and Avalon hasn't quite figured out that it's ok to trot big with that much contact. This is what I get for trying to ride him backwards for so many years, now I have to work to get him to move forward.

I made a really awesome discovery on Pete. He tends to have hissy fits (stick his head in the air and crophops a bit before settling down) when you ask for an upward transition to a canter. My trainer has been telling be to overbend him towards the inside when I ask, to reduce that, which works, but didn't eliminate it entirely. Turns out, if you loop the inside rein while you're asking (but keep contact on your outside) during the upward transition and take only minimum contact in the canter, he's chill. This is not a one side thing, so I don't think it's a pain response, I think I just rely too heavily in my inside rein and Pete is just not a fan. I can live with that. When he's not trying to get me off, Pete's canter is almost as nice as Avalon's.

We all know who the favorite child is.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Just a quick thought...

Yesterday I got the nicest upward transition to a canter I had ever had on Pete. The only problem is that I didn't ask for it. I wanted more energy in his trot.

Now if I can just figure out how to repeat it....

I promise to update sometime in the next couple of days. Lots of work stuff went down this week, so I'm a bit behind on posting here.