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Lyfe The Long Run

All the Pretty Horses #thelongrun

Happy Derby Day, my friends! I have decided that, though my life is conspicuously empty of my four legged equine friends and southern charm, I am going to wear a giant hat all day to celebrate. To the gym, to dinner, to yoga, #giantvisorneverwiser #bighatdontgiveashat


Welcome to The Long Run, my weekly chat of things more specifically fitness-related. I would say running-related, but we all know what is again NOT happening at the moment ::cough:: running ::cough:: Since my Saturday crowd tends to be a composed of those that I have bribed who are here for the pure unadulterated joy of it, I have a little treat for you today. And, being Derby Day, I thought the subject matter appropriate.

For the past 2 years, I have come to identify myself as a runner, a label that you all are likely beginning to question, as for the majority of the time that you have known me I have done very little to accrue any mileage. But a “runner” I was not always. So what the heck did I do with all of this awesome and intensity prior to 2 years ago? If I really wanted to boggle your minds, I could detail all of the activities and fitness pursuits that I did and didn’t engage in, but here is the short, succinct, and all-encompassing answer: I was a rider.


A quick digression (You knew that I would make one): I am sad to say that, at the moment, the majority of the pictures of me and my horses are currently encrypted in my external harddrive, unreachable until I have someone set them free. But luckily, I have a few saved to this computer, and that lovely contraption called Facebook. Reason Numero Uno that is pays to be member #272,877 on FB? PHOTO ALBUM RECORDS.

Senior Pictures, anyone?

Senior Pictures, anyone?

Horses. Just about every girl dreams of one. Not many girls decide this by the age of 3. Horses are in my blood (sorry, men of the family. Sorry, parents’ bank account)–the women of my mother’s family rode, my mom rode until she met my dad, and my father’s family bred, raised, trained, and race Thoroughbreds in the Finger Lakes area of NY. Kinda like with my Crohn’s, hormonal issues, depression, and, apparently, my Plantar Fasciitis, my love for horses was inevitable; the question was when and to what extent. Um, the womb and fervently.

Yup, I rode with a broken foot, no stirrups. Yup, I rode the horse that fell and broke said foot. I was there to see him the next day in a splint. I rode the day after I got my hard cast on.

Yup, I rode with a broken foot, no stirrups. Yup, I rode the horse that fell and broke said foot. I was there to see him the next day in a splint. I rode the day after I got my hard cast on.

I was finally accepted as a student at the age of 5, as I could tell my rights and lefts, and because I think my mom basically manhandled them into letting it happen. Many of you have remarked about the relationship I have with my mom, and how close and supportive we are of each other. Well, horses had a huge role in that: not only are we mom/daughter, we spent the next 11 years together in the car, at the farm, at shows, at home preparing for shows… She didn’t get a break from me until I got my driver’s license. Oh, and another thing? My starting equestrian activities gave her the chance to get back to it as well. She even still had her old tall boots! She wore them for a little bit, but the leather just gave out. We both regret the fact that she didn’t keep them after the fact–what a cool decor piece that would have been!

I could likely write an entire book on my experience in and around the saddle, but I am going to keep it on the shorter side, at least for now, and give you all the nutshell overview with some highlights:

  • The horses that I have owned: (show names in parentheses)
  • Jerry (Special Effect)


My first (and only) pony. Freaking gorgeous, the most amazing mover and jumper, but didn’t do his lead changes (long story) so we never were able to take him to the big time. We got him when he was 5 and I was 8, and he and I taught each other. I will get mom to send me a copy of the picture from the day that they gave him to me–it is awesome and adorable. I was FLOORED. I got my first year end award with him, and I rode him into his late years. In the purest and most basic sense, Jerry taught me responsibility for another life, how to read the minutest of gestures, and a respect for the soul of an animal. In short, he taught me to love. In so many ways, I owe who I am today to this crazy little pony. Till his dying day, I could go to the top of the hill (where you entered the farm) and trill (it really is the only way to describe the call I had for him) his name, and within 30 seconds, I would hear him nickering and see his dirty self heading over to find me. The day that I knew something was very, very wrong was the day I called him and he couldn’t physically get himself to come to see me. That was the last time I ever saw him. I’m actually almost in tears right now. Ok, I have to move on.

  • Penny (Moneypenny)

**I am trying to find a digital picture of Penny at the moment**

We also had another horse, Allie, in between Jerry and Pen, but I’m not counting her. She was never my horse, and neither Mom nor I truly connected with her. OOOOhhhhh Winners (one of my names for her) Pen taught me how to ride a horse rather than a pony. She was, and is, perfectly summed up as a librarian: smart as anything, not the most elegantly formed being and built for work, but elegant in her self comportment, and steadfast in her loyalty. Penny, like me, has just about all of the conformational defaults to keep her from doing something, but she does it anyway. Penny now enjoys her COMPLETE (RIGHT MOM?) retirement, where she gets her treats, eats her grass, lets herself be cleaned up and feet taken care of, and then happily ignores the world. Where Jerry was spritely, gorgeous, and a twit, Penny was solid, a bit frumpy, and all business and attitude. But she knew her job was to take care of me and to teach me (and then to take care of my mom). But she HATED plastic bags. That was her kryptonite. I won my first big equitation awards on Penny (basically, in hunter-jumpers, there are different types of classes. Equitation tests the rider’s form, poise, and skill in making, communicating, and executing difficult maneuvers and decisions–thus why Penny’s beauty didn’t really matter.

  • Brian (Avalanche)

brian suz Collage

If Jerry was my first love, Brian was and is my child. Penny spoke to my businessy personality, Brian speaks to my ridiculousity. He is half pony, half-horse (by breeding) and truly believes that he is about 500 lbs less that what he his and far shorter. He is a “boob basher”–he gives you a playful nudge, which happens to be at chest height, and again, he is far larger than he believes, and it HURTS. Brian is like a Lab/Golden, all happiness and wagging tail. Also, he inherited his Welsh Pony father’s tail, and good lord that thing would take forever to clean and detangle. Brian also loooooved his morning naps, and we learned quickly at horse shows to clean out his stall first thing, then to clean him, then to put a light sheet on him. We also pioneered the use of Oxiclean amongst the barns in our show circuit in our efforts to get him clean. Brian, for all of his nuttiness, is also a smart cookie–if you’ve seen the live action Black Beauty–he is Merrylegs and can get himself out of just about any enclosure. He also has the best canter ever.

  • Regal (First Knight)

regal suz Collage

Regal is, in a word, the perfect horse. Dashingly handsome, the perfect gentleman, just funny enough, just serious enough, just smart enough, and unflaggable. He was to be my big show horse, and he finally was able to get me there, or at least to the level that I then worked out of, but injury and a few other things prevented him and I from really hitting the big time. I took him with me to UVA, and there we blossomed, but he soon fell apart. I sent him home during March of my first year of undergrad because his neck kept locking up and it was too much. He was older, and an off-the-track Thoroughbred, and then it turned out that he had a heart condition, which we only discovered about a few days before we had to put him down. When mom called me to tell me about the vet visit, I booked a flight home to say good bye to my precious boy. We went straight to the farm, and I took him out and walked him around and just talked to him. Telling him goodbye, and going to see him, is something I will never forget or regret. It taught me the value of closure, of seeing someone for the last time, telling them one last time how much they mean to you. The day it comes time for Brian to go, I will do the same for him.

  • Lad (Justa Lad)

lad suz Collage

Lad, or the Goobs, as I called him, was a spunky young gun that I trained and turned into something amazing. We got him when Regal got hurt (when I was in high school) and he became the horse that I was known for. We were year end champions, and I adored his goofy nature. Unfortunately, he is also the horse that was involved in my mom’s riding accident, but to no fault of his own. There is a bit more to the story of Lad, but I will save that for another day.

We also had a few other horses, but these are the ones that were truly mine, rather than Mom’s, or ones that we owned but I never really attached to.

There are also a few that we didn’t own, but that I will always keep with me.

  • Tide (Springtide)

tide suz Collage

Tide belonged to The Barracks, the stable that I rode with/at/for at UVA (both on the team and showing with the stable). I actually didn’t like Tide at first–I didn’t see what the attraction was, and he could be super crochety and rude. But this horse, Oh, Tideytoe. He took me places. Around the east coast, to big time finals, qualified me for Washington. And he, like Regal, basically killed himself for me. At equitation finals in Virginia, Tide tore his meniscus, and though this is an injury that humans can come back from, it is not so easy for horses–three weeks later he was gone. I have so much gratitude for Tide, and I will always consider him to be one of mine–I think he did, too. He was very picky about his people, but he claimed me. The owners of the Barracks will tell you differently, of course, and I absolutely respect that. But for just a little while (about 1.5 years), he was mine.

  • Luna (Victoria’s Secret)

**I am trying to find a Digital Pic of Luna at the moment**

OH, Tunes, Tuna, the Heffalump-Manatee. She was a BIG GIRL, and one of the best movers ever. What. a. diva. I showed her for about 6 months, perhaps a bit longer, but she decided that I was hers. Even after I stopped showing her, she would still crap her pants when she heard me and carry on until I gave her a rub and a treat. When I say she was giant, I’m not kidding. I’m 5’4″-5″, and her other big time riders were all around 6 foot. But when we were good, we were perfect. And then she would have a moment and carry on and I would hang on for dear life. What a ninny.

Well, that got way more involved than I thought it would. And I started to cry at a few points. But I’m glad you all now know about my secret past. I haven’t ridden, now, in about a year and a half, and I am ok with that. I got to the point that I was riding because I felt like I should, rather because I couldn’t think of life without doing so. Right now, I don’t need the horses. But, I’ve no doubt, there will come a day where something shifts within me and I have to go now. But it isn’t worth it to me to compromise what was so precious to me for so long by forcing it. So I, and our budget, are taking a break.

And you wonder why I never used to have issues with my legs and running? Well, now you know.

What is your past life? What did you do before you became a runner/yogi/crossfitter? Why did you stop?

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  • Reply Lynette Noni

    Boy, you sure owned and rode some beauties! They’re gorgeous πŸ™‚ I miss my riding days!

    May 3, 2014 at 7:18 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      Thank you! It was such a nice walk down memory lane. When/where/how/what did you ride? Hunters? Jumpers?

      May 4, 2014 at 7:05 am
      • Reply Lynette Noni

        Mostly dressage – Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods. It’s been waaaaay too long since I’ve been in a saddle! πŸ™

        May 4, 2014 at 7:54 am
        • Reply SuzLyfe

          Well, I love your breed choice–after multiple off-the-track TBs and several warmbloods and crosses, I will always have a soft spot and great respect. I adored dressage, though I did it more as a sort of crosstraining for the horses (but also to supplement my equitation). One of my best friends was one of the top jr dressage riders in Finland. #respect GET BACK OUT THERE

          May 4, 2014 at 9:58 am
  • Reply Laura @ the gluten-free treadmill

    If you can believe this, I’ve never actually been close to a horse, let alone ride one! It’s on my bucket list though, don’t you worry… Loved learning more about you. In my past, I was a swimmer. It’s actually the one sport I think I have any natural talent, but since I don’t swim unless it’s over 60 degrees outside, I’ve got a month or two before I start swimming in NoDak.

    May 3, 2014 at 8:04 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      Hahaha I know exactly what you mean–I get extremely cold in water (not much insulation, lol) but I love swimming. I am not fast, though, and while I would have loved to have swam, yeah, not a chance.

      May 4, 2014 at 7:06 am
  • Reply Farrah

    This post made me so happy! <3 I never got the chance to learn to ride until I got to undergrad because it was so expensive. (At the time, they had a work exchange program where I could get free lessons in exchange for helping out at the equestrian center with feeding, bathing, cleaning + rehabilitating the injured horses. Twas a win-win because I would've done all of the latter for free anyway. πŸ™‚ I loved every second of it over there, but then school started up again and the work exchange program got decimated due to budget cuts. I miss my favorite horses there so much!

    May 3, 2014 at 8:51 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      That sucks that they did away with the program πŸ™ At UVA we had several people who started riding through the UVA team, and we loved having them there because they could also compete for the team at the intercollegiate shows. I hope that you find a barn again!

      May 4, 2014 at 7:08 am
  • Reply Jennifer Boudreau

    I’m a northern girl for sure, because Derby Day doesn’t really get me excited. But I do love how most of the country gets excited for this!!! It’s great! I do love horses though They are absolutely gorgeous. My cousin has several horses.

    May 3, 2014 at 10:02 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      It’s so funny–Derby Day reminds me of the Cinco de Mayo–people just want an excuse to dress up, drink, and be social, but it isn’t something that really is truly celebrated anymore. We were always into it because of my grandfather, but we didn’t really dress up. I would love to actually go to the Derby one day. I bet the energy is infectious.

      May 4, 2014 at 7:10 am
  • Reply runningsouthern

    Happy derby day! You sure have had some beautiful horses. I have only ridden a few times, but for a while my sister in law had a horse and rode. We loved to go watch her at competitions.

    I was a dancer in my former life (back when Facebook was brand spanking new and you had to have a college email address to get in). Dancing taught me so many life lessons and all of my favorite memories are either from the studio or from traveling to competitions.

    May 3, 2014 at 10:07 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      Thank you! I so respect you for your dancing past–it takes so, so much discipline and dedication. But I also think that being a dancer is one of those gifts that keeps on giving–I danced for several years, and my mom danced ballet until she was in her 20s, and I still find pieces of my practice in my movements (particularly during yoga!). I want to see pictures of you dancing!

      May 4, 2014 at 7:14 am
  • Reply your mommy, Clare

    I have the penny pictures and I’ll send you one in a minute

    May 3, 2014 at 10:34 am
  • Reply DarlinRae

    My boyfriend’s mom owns a retired sulkie(sp?) racer name OJ (Oxford Jill). She’s a regal gal who loves her retirement and will whinny and stamp until she gets her beloved oats πŸ™‚

    May 3, 2014 at 10:50 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      Awwwww love it. Horses are hilarious. You open that feed bin (or your trunk/wherever you keep their treats) and it is CHRISTMAS.

      May 4, 2014 at 7:15 am
  • Reply your Mommy, Clare

    I’m wringing out my hankie……oh, wait, that was an old “snot rag” in my back pocket….sorry!

    Jerry WAS your pony, but as your dad told everyone, “this is the grey pony Clare always wanted….she’s just letting Susie borrow him” and he was right!

    Thank you for the happy memories.
    If someone doesn’t believe in magic, (s)he didn’t grow up in a barn.

    You can take the girl off of the horse, but you can’t take the horse out of the girl..

    May 3, 2014 at 11:25 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      YOU WISH. Jerry was allllll mine.

      May 4, 2014 at 7:16 am
  • Reply your Mommy, Clare

    ….and, you rode said “lovely horse,” without stirrups in a horse show and placed in the class! A long black sock covered the cast, so it matched the boot on your other foot, you took the stirrups off of your saddle and into the ring the two of you went!

    May 3, 2014 at 11:37 am
  • Reply Lauren @ ihadabiglunch

    In my “past life” I played basketball. I almost went to college to play it too but I didn’t want to miss out on the college experience and go to a small school just to play. That’s why I started running! I didn’t know what to do with myself without basketball so I just started running, and luckily I fell in love. It’s so weird to think back to times when you literally dedicated your life to something and now it’s just not a part of your life anymore. I actually was never into horses! I’m not sure why haha I mean I went riding a few times thanks to Girl Scouts but I never wanted to learn the basics, I just wanted to ride fast (which of course no one let me do because I was an 11-year-old on a horse, duh).

    May 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      Haha yeah probably wouldn’t have been smart to let you just zoom off, devil-may-care style. You should play bball with my husband some time–he would love to have someone to play with. I am…not what you call “good” at basketball, let me say that.

      May 4, 2014 at 7:18 am
  • Reply courtruns4cupcakes

    Aww I’ve been waiting for this post! I know I told you my sister was the rider in our family. I used to looove horses and riding until we got a horse named Running Dog. His name says it all. He was crazy and scared the bajeezus out of me and from then on I lost all interest in riding. I still love horses and think they are gorgeous and I’m slowly but surely gaining my riding confidence back.

    In my past life I was a dancer. I danced for 11 years until I broke my right femur bone and had to get 2 surgeries to fix it. I had to take about 6 months off from dancing and lost a lot of my flexibility and movement. Dancing was more frustrating than it was fun for me after that so I made the tough decision to quit, and then turned to running.

    May 3, 2014 at 7:10 pm
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      What a traumatic injury! And that’s a difficult way to have to stop, too–out of the frustration rather than being ready to move on. Would you have continued to dance had you not been injured?
      And we need to get you back on a horse–always get back on (but not onto a crazy one, obv)

      May 4, 2014 at 7:22 am
      • Reply courtruns4cupcakes

        I think I would have continued dancing until college if I wouldn’t have broken my leg. Instead I played tennis and met a ton of great friends through that so it all worked out! My sister is pregnant so every time I’m home I ride her horse since she isn’t able to. Although I’m not going to lie I’m still not as comfortable on a horse as I used to be. I’ll get there!

        May 4, 2014 at 8:13 pm
  • Reply Ange @ Cowgirl Runs

    Thank you so much for sharing your horses with us.
    Before I was a running, I was a swimmer. I competed in both speed swimming and synchronized swimming until I was 19. Then I moved on. Surprisingly, I don’t miss swimming much anymore. I think it’s something that served its purpose for me, and I learned a ton, but it’s no longer who I am.
    One day I really really hope to own a horse. I loved riding. I was never spectacular, but loved my connection with them.

    May 3, 2014 at 9:42 pm
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      There are so few of us that are “spectacular” are much–like with most things, I studied my ass of and practiced ad nauseum, but I wasn’t a natural. It was for me, as it is for you, about the connection. So when it stopped being about that connection, I knew I needed to take a break. But one day, I will be back to it.

      May 4, 2014 at 7:24 am
      • Reply your Mommy, Clare

        You were a natural horse lover, and you worked your butt off and gave every horse your best ride–and they gave you theirs in return.
        One day, you will be ready to go back and the horse-lover in you will just completely reemerge. Maybe, I’ll be lucky enough to watch YOUR 3-year-old daughter stand patiently(!) in line to ride an old pony at a school fair pony-ride…..and I can watch it happen to you just as my mom watched it happen to me!
        Your saddle is clean, stored and waiting…..!

        May 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm
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