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Rachel Skirvin

Achievements

About Rachel Skirvin

Hoosier, Eventer, Paramedic, Mom

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area 8
Highest Level Competed preliminary
Farm Name Bay Run Farm
Trainer local greats and amazing clinicians

Latest Articles Written

Savage.

The four-legged ones are better anyway. Photo by Audrey Chaszar.

Savages. That’s the word I would use to describe teenage girls. I don’t own one yet (I’m in trouble when we get to that point…) but from my limited interactions with them in the barn, I have a pretty good understanding of their works. Also, I used to be one.

Any equestrian discipline is going to have them in hoards. You see a greater percentage in English based riding as opposed to their male counterparts. They start as adorable, happy little pigtail-and-jodhpur wearing fluffs and turn into lean, athletic, competitive she-beasts. Sometimes only pleasant when they are on their horse, around their horse friends, or in the barn. Sometimes never. Sometimes its best not to make eye contact with them. The poor things are subject to massive hormone dumps, but they enjoy being around a 1,200 pound animal that they can control, but can also be as equally stubborn and difficult as they are.

My current main teen titans have started to enter a girly phase. I try to be supportive and maintain a leader/friend/authority/advise giver role. Savage minion training is difficult, but for whatever reason, they still think I’m cool. Sometimes. So I get texts. All the texts. With emojis and things done on a phone that I have no idea how to do. And they’re fast. One mentioned she was going to a dance. Then the other starts in on a date. Then emoijis. Talking emojis. Unicorns. So I mention that we may have a 16-year-old male student coming soon. Silence. For maybe seven seconds. Then … boo-doo-ding, boo-doo-ding, boo-doo-ding.

“What’s his name?”

“What does he look like?”

“What does his horse look like?”

“Does he have blonde hair?”

“What’s his phone number?”

“Is he a good rider?”

“I’m wearing my tall boots and show breeches next lesson.”

“He’s going to like my horse.”

“Is he cute?”

More emojis. A picture of what they wanted this kid and his horse to look like. A name for this kid and his horse. A plan to keep the other savages away for what they had already claimed to be theirs. Lighthearted (or stabby, not really sure) comments towards each other proving superiority. Private texts trying to get a leg up on each other. Savages.

If they were to ever meet this rarity of a human, the interaction would be short, awkward and aggressive. Both parties would be left confused, but for some reason intrigued by the odd behavior. I’ve witnessed a water bottle flung by a female teenage student towards a teenage male head with the velocity to concuss a silverback gorilla. All because she thought he was cute. They ended up going to the homecoming dance together a few weeks later.

As I sit here and laugh at the honest comedy, I must take a step back and realize that we are the ones setting an example. We have a tradition every Wednesday. I teach lessons and then some students, friends and the barn owners go to a local Mexican restaurant. About once every other month, some of us end up walking a few doors down to a small bar that offers karaoke. Every once in a while, a nice man will wander over, intrigued by the loud group in odd clothing and curious odor, sit at our table and try to strike up a conversation. It’s generally a bad idea.

This particular time, a nice gentleman, we will call him Steven, came over, introduced himself, and asked if he could karaoke with one particular member of our group. Nice try, we all sing, Steven. He didn’t have a song in mind, and it just so happened that “Good Bye Earl” was our next jam. Perfect. Steven tried, he really did, but then he made his first mistake, he attempted to isolate his pick, put his arm around her and like a border collie, herd her away from the flock. I will say he was in no way inappropriate, the poor soul just wandered obliviously into a hornets’ nest. Seeing this, I immediately placed myself in between the two and sang louder.

“No black eyed peas?”

“They tasted alright to me STEVEN.”

And the group joined in…

“DARK!! Bahahaha, *snorts*, TARP STEVEN YEAH, Bahahahaha”

Poor Steven came back to our table, and out of desperation, he made one more valiant effort at acceptance. He ended up going back to sit at the bar alone, shot down by a group of adult savages in tight pants who threatened to end him.

We all woke up the next day, ate some ibuprofen and laughed about the night/morning. Bless the non-horsey significant others that choose to spend their lives with us and put up with our savageness. Bless the horse friends that may be slightly over protective of their single friends. And bless the unknowing who justifiably label us as insane. We can’t help it.

 

 

Winter Is Dumb

Cold weather has set in, and in true Mid-West style, it gets stupid cold and then we get a glimmer of hope with two random days of tolerable weather. Not that it matters, because everything is so wet that you can’t ride, walk or drive anywhere that’s not paved without four-wheel drive and a set of chains. It’s come to the “I hope it just freezes stage,” the final acceptance of winter’s wrath.

Since I have to stay in Indiana and adult, my horses get feral and I’m left to random bareback rides and occasional weekend hacks. I get to sneak away for random lessons (which generally don’t go well, see feral reference above), and local schooling shows with people that are in the same boat as I am. All this extra time leads to online shopping, Netflix, extra hours on the ambulance, and impulsive decision making.

Luckily, depending on the level of chaos in the city, extra hours on the ambulance can sometime include Netflix and online shopping. Today, in between albuterol and 12 leads, I managed to watch Bird Box. I figured that the Facebook sensation was worth a few hours of my day. Other than being totally unrealistic, it wasn’t that bad. Not unrealistic because of the dark monsters, unrealistic because no one on this planet would be able to convince small children to keep a blindfold on for five years. Please. Mine won’t even drink juice without arguing with me. Sometimes there are tears involved, I never pick the right cup, and if I did ask them to put a blindfold on due to a supernatural mind sucking creature, it would for sure be the wrong color, they would rip it off, and then we would all die. Within like three minutes. Movie over.

Because I’m stuck here and not somewhere dry with fields of cross country jumps, I did the next best thing and bought a horse. I wasn’t looking, and I didn’t need another one, but when a small, adorable, red mare becomes available and your “friends” peer pressure you, sometimes you lose your extra stall. Other than being offended by the Indiana weather, Nola (from LA) has fit in just fine and has a super chill 2-year-old baby Thoroughbred brain. Of course she already has a newly purchased leather halter with her name on it, which means she’s secured a home for at least the next few month, or 25 years, whatever works … I’m excited to work with her and see what she wants to do in life.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Skirvin.

Cold weather also means more hay. Finding round bales seems to be an adventure in itself, and hauling round bales is even more fun. I decided that I was going to rent a flat bed and get more than my horse trailer would hold. I enlisted my friend Lindsey to come with the children and I, knowing she would be good at second opinions involving round bale stacking. We drove up to the amazing LAZs farm who graciously offered a few spare bales. Of course it was sleeting and about 20 degrees out, but we had an 18’ flat bed, a Carle (1 ton dually) and two brand new ratchet straps. Nothing could stand in our way. LAZ fired up the skid steer and managed to Jenga five bales on the flat bed and one in Carle’s bed. With some tweaking, cursing, ratchet strap ratcheting and re-ratcheting (because you never do it right the first time), and a blessing from the farrier, who gave us the “you should make it” talk, we were off. It was about that time that I realized the trailer was wired for lights but not brakes. No worries, Lindsey decided that anything Prius sized or smaller would just get pushed out of the way. Survival of the largest. I knew she would have good ideas.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Skirvin.

I sometimes worry about the stories that the kids are going to tell their teachers at school. I try not to make eye contact with Oliver’s pre-school teacher when I pick him up. I fear that she will one day pull me aside and tell me that he’s been swearing like a trucker and telling stories of picking up horses from Louisiana and planning on smart car annihilations via round bale, all on a weekday. Ill just tell her that he must have heard it from his father as I hurry him into the truck and quickly drive away.

Team Challenge and the Case of the Missing Cell Phone

I’m still in denial that our show season is about to end. I’m not quite ready to admit defeat to Carhartts and thick socks. Indiana produces some wicked cold temps, and while I’m stubborn enough to get in that 10-minute bareback ride before hypothermia sets in, I’m not happy that it’s about to come to that.

I would like to tell a story about a recent happening at Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event & Team Challenge H.T, held at the Kentucky Horse Park annually in October. Team Challenge is a great show. It’s like a Pony Club Rally, except there aren’t any people walking around in khakis and straw hats judging your every move. That and you’re allowed to have beer. Disclaimer: National Examiner here, I heart Pony Club ….

Due to unfortunate circumstances, Lyric and I ended the show with a big fat E. He had a few confidence rattling jumps in the beginning of the cross country course, and God love him, he just petered out. We will get it next time.

For confidentiality purposes, I will protect the names of the innocent. My Team Challenge Team was a fun group. We had a nice variety of horses and riders and we were determined to have a good time. My story begins as we were about to set off on a course walk. One of my teammates, we will call her “L” discovered she had lost her cell phone. Now “L” is a pretty cool person. She comes from a jumper background, but ventured to the dark side and has stuck around. She’s a fantastic rider and has nice horses. She is however, at least at horse shows, like herding a group of attention deficit kittens through a maze of catnip. Glorious catnip.

“L” announces she has lost her phone. OK, let’s call it. So I do. Twelve times. Nothing. We look through the tack room. Nothing. Tack trunks. Nothing. Pockets. Nothing. Stall. Nothing. Then it happens. “L” states that she went to the bathroom before changing into breeches for dressage. She thinks maybe it fell out of her back pocket into the abyss of the Port-O-Let. “L” decides to course walk and let it go.

But then she changes her mind, and she asks me to follow her, which I do, because I’m a good person. The next chain of events is something I will never forget.

“Come with me.”

“Ok, what are you doing?”

“I’m going to see if my phone fell in the toilet.”

“Um … ok.”

“Stand here and hold the door, or just come in.”

“I’m not going in there with you.”

“Don’t get your phone out and record any of this.”

So I stood there, looking back and forth, and the front of the barn aisle, hoping no one would see me holding the door of the Port-O-Let. But then it got worse. “L” leaves me to go back to her stall and comes at me with an applepicker.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to try and find my phone.”

“Please don’t.”

“Just hold the door.”

But there was no going back. “L” went in. She tried head first. Discouraged, she realized that wasn’t going to work — square applepicker, round toilet seat. She’s pretty smart, so she only tried for a few minutes. Then she flipped it around, and despite my pleading, she did it. Stuck the handle of her applepicker in the blue water and went spelunking. I stood there in amazement. I’ll admit, as a paramedic, I see lots of things, and this made me cringe.

Convinced she was not finding anything worth retrieving, “L” went back to her stall and PUT HER APPLEPICKER RIGHT BACK IN THE MUCK BUCKET LIKE NOTHING HAPPENED.

“Please throw that away.”

“I just touched the dry paper.”

“Not ok.”

I then proceeded to tell everyone on my team not to borrow “L”s applepicker, or give her a high five any time soon. After another 30 seconds, “L” remembered she had stacked some of her 57 saddle pads on a chair, that may have contained her cell phone at one time. Shockingly enough, there it sat, dry and lacking excrement juice, its sound having been muffled by the copious amounts of equine accessories stacked upon it.

“L” then, trying to make the situation better, tells us that she has disinfected the handle with alcohol. Alcohol. Team member “S” suggests bleach. I suggest if she uses alcohol, she also needs to use fire. Or even just fire would be fine.

“L” proceeded to continue about her weekend like nothing happened. Luckily, she told the story to her family, who called their physician friend, who told “L” that the applepicker needed to go. I did not get a confirmation picture of the applepicker in a dumpster, so I’m skeptical.

The rest of my team had a fantastic weekend. I stayed and cheered them on the next day for stadium. If you ever get the chance to meet “L”, ask her about the cell phone incident, also don’t use her applepicker.

On Being a Girl: An Eventer Goes Dress Shopping

Say ‘I guess’ to the dress. Photo courtesy of Rachel Skirvin.

My awesome friend Sarah is getting married and I’m a bridesmaid. Sarah is an eventer, but Sarah is totally a girl. She knows about all things makeup, hair, heels and cuteness that are completely foreign to me. Dresses are kind of like Arabians: pretty to look at, a little unconventional, but sometimes you find one that’s kinda cool. It doesn’t help that I’m shaped like a sausage. There isn’t much going on other than a straight, short, boxy, cylindrical human. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. At all. I’m just not meant to model bikinis.

So I threw the kids in Carle, my F350 dually (a super feminine and petite flower of a vehicle), and headed to the granny’s house so I could drop them off and venture to the dress store. I reached in my purse and pulled out foundation, one of my four makeup items, the others being powder, eyeshadow and chapstick. Oliver, who never misses anything, immediately asked, “Mommy, what’s that?”

“Makeup.”

“Why?”

Um … I don’t honestly know. It’s a bit of a foreign concept to me. It’s clearly a huge staple in my life because my 4 year old child knows what a splint boot is, but is totally confused by me putting on makeup. My ambulance partner Val tries to help. She took me into Sephora and had me sign up for this deal that sends you samples of random facial war paints each month. Luckily, they come with a handout that tells you what they are. Otherwise, I would probably taste each one or use the truth serum as a hydration mask, which is obviously ridiculous. Obviously.

So I pull up to this dress shop, which is in a part of town where you don’t see many F350s as daily drivers. I jumped out, trying to hurry as I was already late, and a soccer mom and her kid stare in amazement. Carle got up-downed — I could see the fear and disgust in her eyes. Why would someone drive something so loud? So dirty? So eco-destructive??? Then I go in. Sarah meets me and tells me to pick a dress, there will be one color, but we can choose a style. There is a lady there to help. She disappears. I’m all alone. With all these dresses. What looks good on a 5’ Midwestern sausage with man shoulders and a slowly fading farmers tan? Nothing.

I eventually find my Arabian dress and the unhelpful lady asks me what size I need.

“Uh, extra medium short?” I know my Pipers, Levis, t-shirt, shoes and sports bra size. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine.

So she measures me, tells me to stand with my feet and legs together like five times (so unnatural), then informs me of my size. HOLD THE BUS NANCY. Where do you people come up with your size charts??? Way to make me feel like the subject of a Raffi song. Glad Carle has that extra set of tires to haul me back to Shelbyville. One more negative checkmark on the anti-dress spreadsheet …

I guess it’s good to be diverse. If all of my friends were exactly like me, it would be the most amazing thing ever bad for business. I’ll keep going along, all feral looking, while others grasp the wonders of femininity. Thank goodness Sarah planned wings and beer after dress shopping, and thank goodness I have a barn full of things totally unladylike that make me super happy and love me no matter what my appearance or dress size is.

Why did she keep telling me to stand with my feet together? Much more in my element after a successful Jumpstart H.T. Photo courtesy Jen Austin.

Flying Cross Fantasticness

This past weekend, Lyric and I headed south to Flying Cross for our second recognized training level event. Since we live in the sticks, we took the scenic route, all the way down IN 421 to KY 42. There wasn’t a stretch of straight road, we saw mansions and shacks, a nature preserve, tiny towns, crops (FYI, the giant cabbages are actually tobacco), crossed the river, then saw some feral people that all smiled and waved, and it was all beautiful and so much better than taking the boring dumb interstate.

I’ll admit that I haven’t gone to Flying Cross in the past few years because I’ve been in the sandbox (boo, hiss). With Squiggie out of commission, I decided to take the opportunity for another event, and I’m glad I did. The show is what all eventing should strive to be, held at an established farm run by people who love the sport. The organization was amazing, scores were posted quickly, the rings were maintained and the cross country was fun yet challenging. Mary Lowry and her crew deserve medals for all their hard work. Most importantly, every single person I met was friendly and seemed happy to be there.

I’m lucky and cool enough to have lots of friends. My friend Stacy came from northern Indiana with her RV, so I invited myself to stay with her. Stacy is a pretty fun person, so I figured if nothing else, we would have a good time. Which we did. With some vodka. Like two bottles. Maybe.

Stacy blazing ahead of a delicious beverage. Pic cred my iPhone.

Lyric decided to be compliant in dressage and went around in a fake-ish frame 85% of his test, and only ear tipped me in the nostrils once, which for him is wonderful. He went on to jump around like a rock star and left all the sticks up in stadium. We were done on Saturday by 11 a.m., which leaves tons of time to relax, hang out with friends, have a drink and begin the worrying process about how gigantic cross country fence #8 was. But first, competitors party! Amazing food, the macaroni had all the carbs and more, a live band, door prizes, did I mention every competitor got a free t-shirt? Did I also mention how awesome this event is?

Saturday we broke the RV. We still had AC, but no water, which sucked because it was hot and we smelled like the south end of a vodka pickled mule. So, we used what the half dead water pump spritzed us with and wash ragged as much dirt off as we could. We walked the course one more time, continued to worry about #8, the table of death, and retired to our RV.

Sunday I got up, cheered on some Prelim friends, walked the course one more time, nervous pooped, forced myself to eat half a granola bar since I was shaky, which meant my blood sugar was probably 25 or 550, one or the other. I got on and immediately felt better. The time finally came and Lyric was absolutely amazing. My pucker factor went away after the death table and I almost bit it in the water, but it was SO MUCH FUN, and MY HORSE IS AWESOME. I hopped off after the finish and embarrassed him all the way back to the stall by telling him loudly in front of all his friends what a good boy he was.

We ended up with a huge pink ribbon, which Lyric wore with pride like the unmasculine dorky gelding he is. I’m thrilled with his progress this year and I’m excited to see where we can go in our crazy sport. We went home the way we came, through the hills, turns, over the river and back to Shelbyville. I was happy to see the kids and the farm still in one piece, but I’m looking forward to heading back to KY and doing it all again very soon.

No sticks shall be touched. Photo courtesy of Vics Pics.

Hello Eventing Nation!

Lyric and I after a clean but soggy Training level cross country finish at Penny Oaks. Photo by Rachel Skirvin. 

My name is Rachel and I wear many hats. I’m a mom, a paramedic, a riding instructor, a trainer, a Pony Club supporter, and of course, an eventer. Staying busy and diverse keeps me out of trouble. It also makes for lots and lots of things to talk and write about. Just in the past few weeks, I’ve made a solo trip to the metal scrap yard (terrifying and fascinating at the same time), removed five spitting, hissing, feral kittens from the barn and placed them into my bathroom, taken my first homebred around his first Training level event after battling EPM, ulcers, lameness and a hatred of the sandbox (him, not me, I tolerate it…), got attacked by ground bees while bush hogging and ended up in the ER with a complementary epi/Benadryl/steroid combo, convinced my last patient not to eat their blanket and pulse ox probe, and failed to notice when the 18 month old child pilfered a giant carving knife out of the dishwasher and placed it in the dog cage. It’s never ever dull around here.

I’ve been riding since I was 7 years old, which means it’s been a long time. I did my first recognized event over 20 years ago on my first horse, who I still have and who now begrudgingly totes around my 4 year old son. She is destined for sainthood. I have come to love my big bay gelding, he has turned out to be pretty awesome, but I have a soft spot for mares — the small, red and feisty are my favorites. If you get one to trust and appreciate you, you have a gangster friend for life. Piss them off and they will end you. In your sleep. I can respect that.

Raising small humans is the hardest job in the world, but it’s also the most rewarding. I totally get the momma bear mentality. Hurt my kids and I will go red mare on you. But I can also understand the moms who drive their station wagon off the bridge into the river. Sometimes you have to place yourself in the bathroom and take a five-minute Facebook break, with the feral kittens, all while screams of “Mommy!!! Mommy!!! MMMOOOOOOMMMMYYYYY!!???” ring through the house and tiny fingers make valiant attempts at entrance under the locked bathroom door.

My horses, my sport and my family have made me who I am. Being a new blogger for EN is super exciting for me! I promise adventure, laughs and insanity, and not just in the middle…