The Variety Show

I have many things to talk about today, hence the title.  First, I did get my drivers license this week.  I have a friend here who is quite knowledgeable about, well, just about everything.  She’s the one who guided my husband and then me through picking up our cars and getting them licensed here, and now I’m licenced too!  She found out about the DMV in Carolina–there you can bypass the general (Disneyland-like) lines, if you know the secret.  She had my husband in and out of there in 10 minutes 😳!  So we went there again–it took me 14 minutes, but only because there was one person ahead of me.  That got me out in time to be back home to receive my shipment of all my tack and riding equipment.  What a valuable friend to have!

So, my shipment arrived right on time, and all the boxes are intact.  They are, however, still sitting in my garage because I do not yet have a locker at the barn.  I’m still waiting for a former boarder to decide if I can buy hers or if I need to go to Home Depot and get a new one.  Of course I’d rather buy one that’s empty and already there, since buying a new one would entail finding and hiring someone to build it for me.  It feels like I’ve been borrowing everything forever, and I’ll be relieved to use my own tack again.

The mare is doing well and continues to fill out quite nicely.  She needs a bit more top line, though, which I’m certain will build over the next few months.  My groom, Victor, has been taking good care of her.  You’ll recall my description of her when she arrived at the barn–she also had a terrible fungal infection on her legs and the backs of her pasterns.  Large patches of her hair was missing and would just fall out when touched and washed, and when the fungus was softened and rubbed gently during a bath it would come off and her skin would bleed.  This spread up her legs to the inside of her thighs and even over her whole belly and flanks.  Poor girl!  It took a gallon of Betadine, two containers of Furazone and a lot of coconut oil, but today it’s all gone, and she’s looking all shiny and pretty.

I have to say, I am so NOT accustomed to having a groom.  I have always done everything myself.  I arrive to the barn an hour ahead of my lesson to groom and tack up.  Then after, I untack, clean/bathe, and groom again.  Then I clean the stall, make lunch, feed, and make sure everything’s put away before I leave.  I miss doing all that.  So, I do what I can, trying not to offend Victor.  He knows what he’s doing, and I don’t want him to think I believe otherwise.  But I do want things done the way I want with my horses.  Sometimes he lets me know what he wants to have, a certain product for example, and sometimes I just show up with what I want him to use or feed.  We’re working it out, despite the language barrier.  He is a good groom, and truly he cares for the horses in his charge.

Yes, there is a language barrier.  By and large, people here do speak English.  But there is a fair contingent who do not.  Some because they never learned, and some because they aren’t from Puerto Rico.  Victor is one of the latter group.  Let me just say here that my trainer has quite a sense of humor.  I know this because he assigned me to the ONLY groom in the barn that does not speak English.  AND he’s from the Dominican Republic, which means that his Spanish is a little different from Puerto Rican Spanish.  AND he speaks even faster than the Puerto Ricans.  Sometimes even my trainer has to tell him to slow down!

Now, I am learning Spanish, but not in the traditional way.  Google Translate has become my go-to tool.  It’s quite useful, and has helped me immensely in communicating with people.   Every day on my way to the barn, I memorize words and sentences I need to use.  It is, though, a double-edged sword.  Because of Google Translate, I’m sure Victor thinks I understand way more Spanish than I actually do, because every now and then he rattles off something to me and I am left standing before him with a blank stare on my face and a “no intiendo” on my lips.  I’ll have to thank my trainer one of these days…

On to another topic:  plantains.  I have loved plantain chips for many years now, and now I’m in the land of plantains.  I have actually made my own roasted plantain chips, and they were quite good.  Tostones, however are quite another story.  Tostones are thick slices of fried plantains. They are a common side dish here, fried twice in oil or.  They are tasty and very dense, kind of like potatoes.  Mofongo is a Puerto Rican staple, also made with plantains.  They are mashed and formed into a cup, which is then deep fried, and then stuffed with all manner of fillings.  Again, it’s like you took mashed potatoes and prepared them the same way.  Plantains are even more dense than potatoes, so in theory they don’t absorb much of the oil, but that always varies with the preparation and the oil temperature.  Nevertheless, my attempts at making tostones have all been epic fails.

I have achieved great success with other things, though:  my banana bread, and my sourdough bread.  I have been making banana bread since I was a child, and have many variations in my recipe box.  I have perfected it over the years, and it’s a hit here as well.  Sourdough bread is something you absolutely cannot find here.  My husband, my sister-in-law and her husband, the chef at the restaurant here all love it.  But it’s just not made or brought here.  So I decided to make it myself!  Perhaps this is an opportunity for me, if only on a small scale?

Well good night, this post is long enough.  More variety next time.



Two Months

Life is good.  Let me be more specific–life HERE is good.

I am making friends at the barn.  The women I ride with have been very helpful with things like where to get the feed and hay I need.  I’m in a bit of a confidence crisis, and they have been encouraging me.  I spent the better part of eighteen months with Woodstock in a state of utter fear when my trainer would send me into a line.  Well founded fear, let me say.  He was so brain-fried that he would come unglued at the sight of a ground pole.  Asked to go over one pole and then on to another, he would tear off and around the ring at full gallop, out of control, in a state of sheer panic.  Often he would erupt into a bucking fit, which I sometimes managed to sit through, sometimes not.

It’s a long story, but the upshot is that it took eighteen months of schooling, practice and patience to bring him through his trauma to the day when we could jump 2’6″, and he enjoyed every moment of the course.  We even went to a show (just a small, local one), and he took 2nd in two classes and 5th in another!  I was so proud of him, and so happy for him to do so well.  It was his first show in over three years, and my first since high school (Just for a bit of perspective, he was a Grand Prix show jumper, which means he was jumping meter-10, meter-20–so 2’6 is like a speed bump).

During this healing process, as his level of fear decreased, mine increased.  I could be okay over single jumps or even on a bending line, but a straight line or combination would send me into my own state of panic.  This is why we have trainers and coaches, and I thank God for mine.  She set up an exercise one day that turned the corner for me, and I will never forget it.

For the first time, I asked Woodstock to go forward to the first jump and to continue going forward to the second, and then I ALLOWED him to do so.  And he didn’t panic, and he didn’t run off like a wild horse after.  He came back to me and settled on the way to way to the next one.  We went through the course several more times, and each time he stayed consistent.

That day was thrilling–for me, for my trainer, and for Woodstock!!  I realized what a breakthrough we all had achieved, and I knew then that we could go to a show and that he could feel like the horse he used to be.

Forward to today.  Woodstock has begun his rehab program, still in California.  I am here in Puerto Rico with a new horse.  This horse was a show horse on a grand scale as well.  She was a three day eventer and a show jumper, winning her classes at meter-20.  At some point, her owners fell on hard times and she was put out to pasture.  “Pasture” here is not the idyllic retirement we often think of.  Basically, she has been in a field fending for herself, eating whatever grass was there, for two years, maybe longer.  While there is much vegetation here, it is not nutritionally complete to properly support a horse.

My trainer here knew her from her younger years, and so when I arrived without Woodstock and asked him to find a good horse for me to lease, he remembered her and brought her in.  While not as bad as we expected, she was quite thin (think BCS of 3-4).  Her coat was dull, rough and scraggly; every rib visible; hooves uneven and very long; withers hollowed and like a shark fin; spine jutting skyward out of her skin; hip bones sharp and pointed.  Her top line was nearly gone.

But even in her diminished state, she rode sound, and willing, and quiet.  And so she and I have begun our relationship.  She is a good horse, with a good mind.  We are learning about each other, and this is where my crisis has hit.  Once again, I have a horse who needs to heal, this time more physically then mentally.   With good food (and plenty of it), supplements and proper health care, she is blossoming.  Her attitude about jumping is “Bring it, I know what to do!”  I, however, am scared all over again.

I tell myself that we are new to each other, that we don’t trust each other, aren’t comfortable yet.  I only started learning to jump less than two years ago.  But does saying that keep me in that place, as an excuse for not taking that next uncomfortable step of trusting her?  And what about trusting myself? Where has my confidence gone?  Is it truly just that she and I don’t yet have that necessary bond and connection?

No one can say when that will happen between any horse and person.  Some horses who have been abandoned take a very long time to trust a human again.  Then again, not all horses openly display affection to their human partners.  Confounding me even more is the fact that she is not mine.  What happens if she’s taken back from me?  Even though we don’t have that bond yet, it would break my heart to send her away to who knows what future.

I am a good rider, a capable rider.  Every day on my drive to the barn, when I mount my horse, when I’m warming up, I know this.  But as soon as my trainer directs me to a jump, my heart jumps all over in my chest!  One thing I’ve noticed though, is that when I’m hacking on my own I’m much more relaxed, and can take the small practice jumps more easily.  Maybe it’s as simple as performance anxiety?

i am looking forward to my next breakthrough.


The Beast

Well, my truck (aka The Beast) arrived in the port of San Juan last Friday, and we went to pick it up today.    Sounds easy, right?  It’s quite the adventure.

First, you go to the port with all your documents in hand.  There, you find out what tax is applied to bring the vehicle here.  It doesn’t matter what the approved value of the vehicle is in the States, or even what the PR official recorded value is, it is all subject to change and you don’t find out how much it is until you get there and they tell you “this is what you have to pay.”  So you pay it.  But you don’t get the vehicle.  More on this subject later.

Then you go to the Hacienda, one of the government buildings in San Juan, where you show that you paid the tax, and they give you more documents to take back to the port, whereupon you can take possession of the car.

Next, you must go get a smog test, and take that certificate to the office where you pay for the vehicle registration and insurance.  You may also exchange your drivers license for a PR license, but only if the person is there to take your picture.  That person was not there today.  So, you relinquish your license in return for a photocopy of it, which you must keep with you for identification purposes, and return within 20 days (when the photographer is there) to get your official PR drivers license.

We started out this morning at 9am, and finished around 1:30pm, which is actually quite impressive.  My husband had already been through all this with the first car we shipped here, and we had an assistant who had helped him, so we were well versed in the required steps.  I still have to return to get my new license, and I’m just a bit leery or trying to pass off a mere photocopy as official identification, but it is what it is.

Now, regarding the tax.  My truck is a 2004, with over 130,000 miles on it.  It is valued at $6600, even by PR standards.  We estimated paying $800-$900 tax.  Upon arrival at the port, we were told that we would have to pay $1900 tax, because they placed a value of $12,000 on it.  Really??  We should turn around and sell it as quickly as possible!  🤔

Running around to all the necessary offices and navigating traffic is exhausting, but it’s done, at least until I go back to get my new license (which will seem like a cakewalk).

But anyway, I am SO happy to finally have it here.   One car for two people who go in different directions every day has been challenging.  It’s like my second home, after all.  My. husband says I’m like a turtle because I carry so much stuff in it all the time.   It arrived in good condition, and really not as filthy as I expected.  One thing, however–someone, somewhere is enjoying my trailer hitch. 😒