Sunday, February 28, 2016

no really - don't move, we'll go around


Soooo exciting guys!!!! Oh man and the horses were soooooo happy. Hard to really describe, lol, except to say there was MUCH porpoise leaping and general feelings of friskiness :D

It was still kinda cold out... but the ground was GOOD. Our big ring at home has become rideable again too - but this big ring at OF is just... well, the next best thing to letting the horses run free in a wide open field.

Tho, of course, we still manage to find new and interesting ways to biff our turns and corners despite all that space. Naturally. Haha.

Luckily, OF is rife with dogs determined to keep us honest about our turns. They risk life and limb - as our porpoising, flailing, leaping creatures come barreling down towards the pups (as if our horses have just rediscovered that they, in fact, have FOUR legs - each of which can move in new and exciting directions!) - these pups just stay put. As if to say "No, no, Emma. No cutting corners!"

So. Um. Thanks, dogs of OF. Please - don't move. We'll just careen around you. Nbd, truly!

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Another weekend, another critter-heavy gif post. Haha. Sorry guys, I really can't seem to help myself ;)

It promises to be another busy weekend, but maybe less so lesson wise. Might be traveling. Might be considering major life changing decisions. Maybe not. We will see. Weather should be good tho!

I'll have a couple more interesting posts to come in the next few days hopefully, including some more mini-product review snippet thingys (did you guys like that post? want moar?!?) and, naturally, probably a ride recap or two haha.

In the meantime, please to enjoy these fuzzy funnies!!

Friday, February 26, 2016

shopping success! ...and failure

This time last year, I treated myself to a full set of Majyk Equipe cross country boots during a big sale at Riding Warehouse. We used the boots in competition all year... but I found myself losing faith in the fronts over time. Very sadly, they were simply too big.

After finding myself using different boots for schooling outings, I decided it was time to admit it: the MEs needed a new home (didn't take long!) and Isabel needed a better fit.

walking around the frozen arena
I've been very happy with my recently acquired Woof Wear white sport boots - especially in how they fit petite little Izamonster, so I was intrigued when a pair of their cross country fronts showed up on eBay.

new (to me) cross country fronts
And not very long later, they were waiting for me at my doorstep!

reinforced strike pad (boots are upside down in pics. sorry not sorry)
The construction looks promising to me. The interior is covered with small perforations for improved ventilation and the exterior is described as a soft, breathable neoprene. Except it's not really like any neoprene I've seen before - it's almost like a much softer, denser brillo pad. Seems super porous - like we won't have problems with it holding water or sagging.

breathable interior  (left); and porous exterior (right)
That still left us without hind boots tho, and Isabel absolutely needs protection on her hind cannons. Always, actually. Ankle boots won't cut it, even for jumping in an arena. She rarely interferes back there, but when she does she means business and opens up a big nasty gash half way up her cannon in the same place every time.

So. To Maryland Saddlery to peruse their consignment section! And also take advantage of their extended President's Day sale - cleverly designed by letting customers choose puzzle pieces, each with their own discounts labeled on the back haha.

thanks obama!
And naturally, while I was there, I had to check out their saddles too. Of which the following came home on trial with me:

berney bros left, brand spankin new HDR right
The Berney Bros saddle felt incredibly similar to my Bates, with perhaps a slightly more forward flap. It has wool flocking too. The HDR (I think a Volans) felt pretty interesting to sit in - actually had a ton of room in the flap to accommodate my relatively long-ish thigh, but was perhaps small in the seat. Oh, and foam panels. Both looked potentially promising, tho, and given MD Saddlery's generous trial program, I opted to take both.

who needs a safety pin when you can bejewel your rider number using these sweet magnets?
Then I just kinda browsed around a while ooh-ing and ahh-ing over all the fancy things they have in the main store - like these crazy neat magnets. Have you seen these before? I sure haven't! Apparently safety pins and yarn are for the birds. This is how you attach your number in style.

so sparkly!
The bling was a little rich for my blood, tho, so I headed across the parking lot to the more familiar consignment section. Which had more options for the rider interested in making... a different kind of statement haha.

feeling patriotic? here's a helmet cover for ya!
Of course, it was also here where I spent entirely too much time digging around the tub of boots... Ultimately tho it was a successful search and produced a very simple, appropriately sized pair of Weatherbeeta hind boots that look perfect for our purposes. 

Weatherbeetas in back, Woof Wears up front
It's not the same look as our MEs, but frankly I'd rather feel confident about fit. These will need testing (esp through water) to convince me they're the solution to our woes, but so far I'm optimistic. 

officially my new favorite saddle pad
My other exciting snag for the day? This super cushy, soft (and brand new!) black dressage pad. Seriously I find enough brand new high quality saddle pads in this consignment section listed for mere dollars (this was $12, I believe) that I could never justify buying anywhere else. 

Obviously it had to come home with me, seeing as my only other non-white dressage pad is maroon and therefore doesn't match my new Dark Jewel Designs browband haha. 

both of these saddles appeal to me for different reasons
Once home, it was saddle test ride time!!!!

Except. Um. Well, the HDR was chopped immediately. Nothing about it looked right to me. Ugh.

looks *almost* promising. alas, 'twas not a fit
I felt better about the Berney Bros (well enough to take a pic), but it had practically no clearance even without a rider... Plus Isabel was having her Very Bad Day and fussing with saddles seemed like exactly the opposite of a good idea.

"i don't feel very good, are you even listening to me?!?" - most long suffering of all long suffering mares
So the potential test ride was saved for another day, then scrapped entirely when others ultimately agreed that it sat too low and was not likely to be improved enough with a half pad.

Ugh. That also concludes my efforts to try bringing saddles home to assess myself. I just don't know enough about the finer points of fit, nor am I confident in my choices. I'm just so done with it. No more picking out trial saddles.

so we relax with grass
So I shot off a text to the fitter I worked with before breaking my leg telling her I am (finally) ready to take advantage of her saddle shopping services.

We'll see what happens!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

want the fancy, feel the fancy, be the fancy

Our latest dressage lesson showed even more improvement in Isabel from her very bad day last week... but while mentally she was 100% game for tackling some dressage, physically she was still a bit stiff behind.

Not entirely sure what's going on there but she again warmed up out of it so... idk. She's had a few days off since then (it's just been raining raining raining here) so we'll see how she feels upon our next assessment.

Anyway, on to the lesson. I'm going to try to keep it a little shorter this go round, since as we've moved into a weekly schedule with trainer C, the low hanging fruit has been picked off already and now we're working on those persnickety issues that crop up every ride - and thus become a little repetitive.

not a bad halt! (if you disregard that she's actually mid-dive haha)
We started the trot work with ye olde spiral in and out exercise. Much celebrated by riders far and wide, but actually my first time giving it a proper try. Go figure. Plus other typical warm up stuff: trotting circles, changing directions, leg yielding from the quarter line. Etc etc.

Then onto practicing halts.

  • Trot off the rail then halt after crossing the center line, then trot off again (trainer C doesn't like practicing halts on the actual center line bc then the horse anticipates). 
  • Except our halts were a tad rough - mare wanted to dance and back up and swing her haunches around and shake her head. 
  • So on the next few attempts I was to very clearly halt through walk, then walk out of halt before trotting - theoretically this will help take the edge off. 
  • Also must wait out the halt if she's fussing. Must count three distinct seconds of immobility of feet (ignore the head stuff and it'll supposedly go away)

trot left! (and an accurate representation of my current positional woes)
Next was trotting for realsies. We did pretty much all of the trot work from first level except stretchy trot, including:

  • 10m half circle to X, return to rail at corner. When I do my job these are cake. 
  • Lengthenings across the diagonal <3
  • Leg yields from center line. Going left to right? A shit show. Right to left? Actually not too terrible - but a little slow and I need to make it allll the way to the rail before we turn the corner.
  • Meaning the zig zag thingy yielding off the wall in our harder direction to X, then back right to left to the wall is not designed super favorably for us. Le sigh. Must activate and ride with my right side!!!!
  • 10m circle on long side, change of direction across E to B, another 10m circle. We've practiced this a couple times now (it shows up in one of those eventing tests) and is another place where we should be ok if I do my job. Oh and also, ffs Emma don't make the circles too small!

trot right!! (mid 10m circle) (and also showing hints of positional improvements... maybe)
Another point of focus was zeroing in on that other common string of movements: free walk, medium walk, working trot, working canter, boom boom boom - typically all happening around one short end of the arena.

  • I MUST ride this with commitment. Be decisive. Let Isabel know we are WALKING now and will very soon be TROTTING. Etc etc.
  • And in that same vein - bend my elbows and raise my hands. Imagine 'feeling fancy' about it. This was a consistent theme actually, especially with relation to encouraging a higher 'presentation' frame in the horse.
  • Sit the trot in this sequence of movements - again with commitment. This is tough for me bc it can take a few steps for me to feel settled in the sitting rhythm, but I don't have a few steps to figure it out, I must keep actively riding. Make sure the mare knows what I'm planning etc.

dis our right lead canter depart. perhaps it wouldn't be hollow if i, ya know, didn't throw my upper body at the mare?!? #foodforthought
The real meat of the lesson was in canter, however. We cantered a LOT.

  • Lengthening down the long side is FUN. Sure, totes. Have at it Izzy! But turning in immediately for that 15m circle should not feel like I'm on a dirt bike. Ooh, and we also shouldn't break haha. Needs more rider, I think. 
  • Counter canter loops are doing well, I think. Must mind geometry tho - get allll the way to X please, and take care to not be nearly finished a pretty good loop just to break before the corner - a common trap for us.
  • Actually we did an awful lot of counter canter, including some pieces that I believe are from second level. This is included in the (short!) video below, and was surprisingly easy for mareface. 
  • Biggest issue in the canter right now is our tendency to get a little too low and curled. The general balance is improving in leaps and bounds tho, so I think this should be fairly fixable - esp with improved rider position. 

General homework:

  • Practice canter-walk and walk-canter transitions. We were directed to do a few canter-walk trans in this lesson, but the discipline isn't there yet. Sounds familiar, no?
  • Seriously tho - I need to bend my elbows and lift my hands. Methinks this could possibly be the solution to quite a few of my current woes.
  • I'm perhaps starting to get a feel for the whole "bend your elbows instead of rocking your torso" thing too, and can see how this will also help our sitting trot.
  • Isabel can (and should) warm up a little lower or deeper but once we start getting into the "work" I need to think about riding her more up. 

leg yield!
  • Dear Emma: Please stahp throwing your upper body forward into the canter transition. That is all. 
  • Oh, and also please keep pushing down into your legs - think about feeling your big toe in the stirrup!
  • And PS: maybe next time consider tucking that shirt in. Just a thought!

pets for good ponies
Now we just sit and hope that all of this rain is clearing out the last of the snow so that we can start practicing at home again soon!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

blurry brown blobs!!

Last week was the first in a while that we could fit in 4 full rides. Exciting! One of which was meant to be a trail ride at home... Except Isabel came in from the field extremely touchy, defensive and sore in strange spots across her hind end. Poor thing was VERY uneasy - even when I broke up our grooming routine with walking and grazing breaks (where she volunteered to lunge around me on the lead rope...).

Trail ride plans were scrapped (I predicted much jigging and unhappiness from all parties) instead for 40min of just plain walking in the little arena, with the potential for stretchy trot should the mare feel up for it. The wisdom in this choice was confirmed when Isabel promptly bashed my face with her neck then reared when I swung into the saddle. Geez mare, I get it, you don't feel good.

spot the loose horse!
She looked much better by Saturday - less tight and worried - so I opted to still take her to our lesson, esp given trainer P is always a good resource for sussing out issues with the mare. Isabel gradually worked out of the stiffness in her hind end while we warmed up - but we opted to keep things pretty light through the ride anyway. Nothing huge and only a couple trips. 

turn n burn baby!
And that's the beauty of getting to ride more often - I feel less pressure to "make it count" when perhaps the mare isn't at her best. Esp given that Isabel still had her game face on, it would be easy to just keep pushing unnecessarily.

oxer landing left!
As it was tho, keeping it simple proved perfect. Isabel grew looser and more comfortable as the ride progressed and we had some really nice jumping efforts through P's roll back exercises.

course 1: soooo ya wanna learn to land the lead, eh? 
Nothing really momentous to report on - the jumps stayed small and we focused on the basics of planning the turns, staying balanced, and landing the leads.

run mare RUN!
I'm still just loving how Isabel feels in the bridle these days when we jump. Initially I thought it was a function of feeling good from the time off while my broken bone knitted back together... But now I'm suspecting it's actually all the dressage lessons.

oxer landing right!
Our connection has changed completely - Isabel is pushing up into the contact such that our canter feels way more adjustable. Even in the tiny indoor with tight turns, I'm starting to feel a greater degree of balance and like we can still move forward to the fences from a compressed stride.

course 2: soooo ya wanna get lost, eh? lol
We were also pretty solid at landing the leads in this lesson - tho I'm actually not gonna read too much into it bc Isabel got really good at it last year in the indoor too, but then reverted back to always landing right once we got back out to bigger arenas. I think the closeness of the walls in the indoor kinda forces the issue, ya know?

isabel's face says it all while i try to figure out where the hell i was supposed to go
Anyways, the jumping was fun. At least, when I wasn't bumbling around off course haha.

mare so fierce! and emma put those heels down!!
And I pretty much hopped off as soon as we finished that second course to help take videos and give Izzy a break. Esp since I suspected that other lesson mates - like Kaitlyn!! - were gonna ask to give the barrels a shot, and I did not want to be lured into temptation given how Isabel started the day.

Part of me worried that I was just being a wuss and that Isabel would have been fine... but she jumped them so beautifully last week I didn't see any point in pushing for it again when she had some stiffness issues going on. So we just watched and cheered the others on. 'Twas all good.

Then lesson mate R (who will be out of the saddle for an extended period of time bc surgery, boooooo) asked if we could hack out around the property since it was her last hurrah for a while. Um, Yes Please! 
So I hopped back on the initially incredulous Isabel, and we got our trail ride in after all!! And everyone was allllll smiles :)
It was kinda wild, actually, watching Isabel's whole demeanor change. She suddenly stretched alllll the way out into an easy ground eating amble, with soft eyes and ears just looking around at everything. Never mind that she's never been out there before.
Pretty mare. We really need to get out onto the trails more often. 
Plus it's always nice having such good company!! 
It was over all too soon tho, and we turned around to head back to the trailers. 
All the horses were all so brave and happy too - all three in this pic are young green OTTBs (Bali, Tillie and Birdie) and they didn't even peek at this little bridge crossing!
Good mare. I promise to get you outdoors more often soon!!! C'mon spring, we're ready for you!!! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

stuff i've had for a while part 1: show apparel

Apparently I'm on a bit of a review kick lately. Generally product reviews aren't really my jam, bc I tend to move on quickly from things I'm ambivalent about, and things I *do* like, I just kinda assume that everyone else sees the same value in them so no need to restate the obvious.

But, maybe that's not actually the case. And lately I've found myself feeling pretty satisfied with the small (relatively speaking) collection of horsey products I've amassed in the past few years since I began leasing Isabel.

As a general rule, I try to be a fairly economical shopper - preferring to spend my limited dollars on lessons and shows rather than gear. I frequently buy used (especially tack) or on sale. It works for me. Your mileage may vary.

So here's a collection of review snippets specifically on apparel I've purchased over the past couple years, in no particular order:

Show Gear

One K Defender Suede Helmet

Guys. I LOVE this helmet. It's my first honest-to-god nice helmet, and I opted to pay the extra for the suede finish bc, dammit, I get a lot of wear out of my helmets and wanted something that I felt really good in. And I feel GOOD in this helmet. Tho the suede requires a little more maintenance than smooth finishes.

My early days were spent in those white plastic vented things, then IRHs, then I ordered a CO in college (a rare splurge) and was horrified by the fit - that is NOT the right shape for my head at ALL, NO. So back to IRHs for the next few years. Until this One K beauty was bankrolled by a very generous gift from my grandfather.

I like the look of this helmet, it's well ventilated, and has a washable liner. The nicely finished harness travels across the back of the helmet, creating a convenient ledge for hiding the base of my ponytail. Meaning the helmet is a better safer fit for not needing to accommodate that extra bulk (but I can still pull off my preferred hunter hair... old habits die hard y'all).

any excuse to use this picture works for me!
pictured: One K helmet, Tredstep boots, Tredstep breeches, Horseware jacket, Equilogic stock tie, and Roeckl gloves

Tredstep DaVinci Tall Boots

Bought these on sale from Tack of the Day in a full size calf, since I'm between sizes. The calf is... fuller than I'd like, but then again nothing quite beats the feeling of effortlessly zipping up tall boots. I've heard tell of others finding the fit a little odd through the calf so I definitely recommend trying them on first, should you have the opportunity. But for what I paid, I'm quite satisfied.

These boots required minimal break-in, and I'm pleased with how they fit through the ankle (they have SUPER soft leather panels through the ankle that were immediately supple) and around the knee, where there's a small elastic gusset.

I also like the leather quality - it stands up to my abuse (they double as schooling and show boots) but also still looks sharp after a couple years. Also, that spanish top and square toe. I like.

Symphony No. 2 Azzura Full Seat Breech by Tredstep

I got these breeches as motivation to reach at least the recognized levels. Again, your mileage may vary, but I felt kinda sheepish wearing white once when I was still competing at 2', and decided I wouldn't be allowed to do so again until I reached BN. Kinda... apropos nothing haha, but that was my thought process.

ANYWHO. These are, erm, a more snug fit than my knee patch Tredstep breeches. And white. Haha. But I like them all the same. They have a microsuede full seat, with additional silicone patches. Super grippy. Also not see-through, another bonus. Wide belt loops and cute detailing make for an attractive pair of pants.

The sock bottoms are quite comfortable, as is the cut through the knees. I like where the medium rise waistband sits, but the fabric is not as stretchy as I like. The fabric is flattering, especially for the long quiet leg asked for in dressage, but I ultimately prefer a darker breech and more flexible fabric for jumping.

the Tredstep breeches that one time i wore them to jump, and my SSG Lycrochet Gloves

Horseware Competition Jacket in Navy

Guys. You all know this jacket. I'm pretty sure more of you commented on the jacket than on beautiful Isabel in our last show recap (don't worry, I didn't tell her, or she would be VERY DISAPPOINTED in you all - she expects fawning adoration from her followers, nothing less!).

Another snag from Tack of the Day - alas, not in the size I had hemmed and hawed about after having the jacket saved in my SmartPak shopping cart for many months. I ordered it anyway just in case, and my worries were confirmed when it fit snugger than I personally prefer, gapping at the buttons.

It was good enough for show day pictures, but I ultimately sold this jacket and sized up when it went on sale through Riding Warehouse. The next size up is perhaps now less fitted than I like, but the jacket is so comfortable (and goddamn pretty, if we're being honest) that it's worth a trip to the tailor to get it just right.

Equi-Logic Ruffled Gray Satin Stock Tie and Blue Crystal Flower Stock Tie Pin (sold separately)

This is a pretty straightforward stock tie get up - it's pre-tied and attaches with velcro. But ya know what? I really am very happy with it. It's not the highest quality material, but still manages to escape the cheap plastic-y look that can come with some inexpensive satins. And it really is gray, not silver - my primary concern in looking at pictures online.

Strapping this sucker on makes me feel that extra degree of fancy (and it routinely garners compliments) - but it's not suffocating and wears well without wrinkling or showing dirt / sweat.

And I got the pin because it was blue and shiny. 'Nuff said there, and no regrets!

SmartPak sunshirt, One K skull cap

One K Skull Cap

I needed a skull cap for a very specific reason: my helmet cam produces the best footage when the mount is adhered directly to the helmet. This obviously works best with a smooth finish, and particularly with a skull cap bc you can hide the mount with the helmet cover when the camera isn't in use.

The shape of this helmet, and the sizing for that matter, varies slightly from the Defender I wrote about above. The helmet is rounder, not as streamlined in the silhouette as the Defender. That seems to be a theme with skull caps vs more traditional brimmed helmets. So definitely check the labels or try on before purchasing (One K uses a Small Medium Large sizing system).

SmartPak SunShield Long sleeve Shirt

Got two shirts (one white, one blue) during a 20% off sale and am... underwhelmed by them as sun shirts. They are not particularly cooling, especially in humidity. When it's very warm out, I'm not wearing these shirts while hanging around the barn all day.

However, I find that they ARE cooling while you're actively moving at a rapid speed with the horse. Like, say, when you're running cross country haha. Plus the cut is flattering, and the quarter zip means that the shirt can either fit nicely under my stock tie for dressage, or open up for more ventilation during stadium and xc.

So the white shirt is my go-to for competitions, and the blue gets used more in higher profile lessons / clinics or more informal shows.


Phew, ok, that's enough for now. I'll have more later - particularly regarding schooling attire and horse gear / other miscellany. Also if you've ever seen any items in pictures on this blog that you're curious about - feel free to ask about it!!

Also - just out of curiosity, where do you see yourself on the "Save vs Splurge" scale? Does it depend on the item? Like, are there some things that you'll always whip out that cash money for, whereas other things are easier to resist?

Monday, February 22, 2016

cats + ponies + attitude, oh my!

My designated (or co-opted, as the case may be) area in our tackroom takes up one of the two available corners. This is both annoying and convenient. Annoying bc squeezing past the western saddle to get to my bridle hook is a pain (both visible in the bottom right corner of the following pic), but convenient bc there's actually quite a bit of space back in there that I've enjoyed packing full of all my crap.

I went through and organized everything a few weeks ago... but somehow it always ends up looking a little... sloppy. Especially with recent variable weather, I've been adding and removing jackets left and right, plus loaning them out, so my saddle rack is doubling as a coat rack.

The other day, tho, I did a double take. It certainly looked a bit lumpier than usual!!

Ha. But it was just a cat tho. I guess he found the temptation of my fleece and corduroy jackets too enticing to resist?

Oh hey look, there's another one too haha, this time on my neighbor's saddle pad collection. Goofy cat. We've been letting them in the tack rooms lately when the temps dipped into single digits overnight.... but it might be time to back off that, given a barn mate discovered fresh scratches on her saddle... oops!

Anyway, it was a busy weekend, with lots of hauling out for lessons, per usual. One of the barn rats actually scared the ever loving shit out of me bc she said my truck had a flat.... Turned out I was just parked in a pothole tho, thank god!

But it got my attention and I found myself subconsciously checking out my tires every time I was in the parking lot. Which is when I spotted this... anomaly haha. 

It's another cat!! This is Diamond, our teeny tiny pint-sized parking lot cat (bc the bigger cats won't let her hang out in the barn, the bullies). Isn't she adorable? She has the most pitiful mewl ever, and uses it to her advantage to make all the lesson student parents believe she must certainly be neglected, so they're constantly slipping her little scraps of food lol. Talk about manipulation haha!

Ooooh and another pint-sized thing that happened this weekend: my friend let me ride her welsh pony Krimpet (who wins the award for cutest name evar lol). Krimpet is just over 4 yrs old, very very smart, and very very athletic to boot. She's a sweet little thing... but is also perhaps maybe learning how to use her powers for evil instead of good. Don't let that sweet face fool ya!

She spent maybe the first 10min of our ride exploring opportunities for bucking me off lol. It was fine tho - she settled in and really was very sweet. My friend is gonna have a BLAST with this little thang! 

Plus, as I mentioned on Saturday - Bali came to our jump lesson at OF this weekend with his lease rider!! To my knowledge, barn management still plans on re-homing him, but no actual moves have happened. So his lease rider will continue to lease him right up until the end. 

"my name is bali and i am SO FIERCE, the bestest evar at being fierce!!!!" - bali, so very proud of himself haha
And they are having so much fun together haha. He got to come and play adult pony again, and while he was a touch excitable (much squealing during warm up!), they ultimately settled in and had a lot of fun jumping around.

Meanwhile Isabel and I might have been slightly off our game haha, and I could not for the life of me remember our twisty-turny courses. At all. Lol. Pictured above would be a moment where I tried to cover up my incompetency via some serious 'tude haha. "What do you mean I went off course?!? Does it look like I don't know what I'm doing?!? Ugh, the way I went was better anyway!" (also Isabel looks like she'd maybe rather not be seen with me lol).

Really, tho, twas a weekend full of cats. Like this one, who I recently discovered might be named Chloe. Tho, in fact, I've never heard anybody ever refer to her as anything, so she's kinda just nameless. She talks a lot tho, so perhaps we should just call her Chatty Cat instead? Idk... anyway she sat on my lap this weekend and was kneading her paws into my legs and I only realized too late that she pulled all these threads on my brand spankin new charcoal gray Pipers. Wtf, cat, really?!?

Fat Cat (yes, her real name) would never be so rude, obviously.

Anyways, more updates to come soon (must edit all my exciting media lol!), but for now, hope you enjoy these pictures of cats and ponies on yet another Monday morning...