Friday, October 31, 2008

Freedom and fall and more PICTURES

One of the blogs I really like is Mugwump Chronicles. She posted about kids and horses the other day. I don't have kids, and wasn't lucky enough to have a horse when I was a kid, so I don't have much to say about the main point of the post. But I have been thinking about this quote for a couple days:

The biggest gift I wanted my daughter to get from horses is the sense of power and control they give. Young girls don't feel in control of their lives much.

I know what she's saying, and I don't entirely disagree, but the thing that I love about horses is the sense of freedom. Really, the thrill of getting a horse to do what I say isn't the exciting part. It's the sense of riding away from everything, being free as a bird or a spirit of the wind or a woodland elf or something.

ANYWAY. Pictures! Of horses, and Mississippi on the cusp of November. It was downright cold earlier this week - we had FROST on the morning of my birthday - but it's warmed back up nicely. It was 72 at 4 pm when I went out.

I like this weird washed-out picture of Champ. I was sitting in my truck (wearing a red shirt, you can see it in his eyeball and reflected off his cheek) and he was sure I had more treats somewhere.

Champ got bored and Dixie came up. Champ stalked off and Dixie cautiously came up to beg.

This is her "good" eye. I really think she looks crazier from her off side, with all the white, so I call her near side her good normal sensible side.
Dixie's sensible side

Here's the "crazy" side. She always looks like she's about to jump out of her skin. I love her dark eyeliner and frosted eyelashes, and her half medicine hat, and the way you can see she's a bay roan paint. But mainly I love her brown eye. I don't know if I've told yall this, but blue-eyed horses FREAK ME OUT. I would not have bought her if she had a blue eye cause they just give me the willies. It's bizarre, I know!
Dixie's crazy side

Here's some pictures of green trees for Sara. :) The reddish ones are sweetgums, they're the only local trees that turn red. Most of the rest you see are just scrubby baby elms, which are worthless trees because that Dutch Elm Disease will kill them about the time they get tree-sized.

This is a sycamore, I'm pretty sure. They turn a pretty yellow in the fall. Look at how the plague of locusts, err, horses destroyed the grass!
Halloween in Mississippi

But the barn owners bring hay now. There's two hay rings, so they drop off two or three rolls every ...? couple of days? Week? They drop hay about like I would - wait til the horses eat almost all the hay, then wait one more day because there's always some scraps left, then deliver some more. We get a hay surcharge on our bills based on the number of rolls that month and the number of horses each person owns.

I didn't take boring body shots, but all three horses are looking great. Champ isn't ribby, Dixie looks fine, and Silky is pleasantly plump. Silky sounded really snotty today, though, which makes me a little worried.

And I dewormed everybody with ivermectin. I know, I used ivermectin last time, but I sure do have a lot of it and I'm hoping I timed it right to nuke the botfly larvae.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Epic truck fail narrowly averted

It was a pretty day today (high in the low 70s, nyah to the rest of yall) so I decided to change my oil. Yesterday I'd found a good deal at Autozone for Quaker State and a Bosch filter for $12.99, which is not bad! So I crawled under the truck and got the pan drained, the filter off, the plug back in tight and the new filter on tight. Dumped in 5 quarts of oil, put the cap back on, and started the truck up.

I waited for the stereo to come to life, then hit pause on it, because it seems like starting the truck back up requires gravity, not Bon Jovi. Then I stared at the panel, trying to decided if the oil gauge was like the battery gauge and snapped up immediately, or like the temperature gauge and gradually rose... no, I'm pretty sure it should be up by no- ABORT ABORT OH GOD SOMETHING'S WRONG!

I snapped the engine off, leapt out of the truck, and lunged around the front of the vehicle to watch my pretty golden Quaker State all oozing away across the parking lot. I stuck my head underneath - hrm looks like it all sprayed out of the oil filter wtf? - then sprinted upstairs to get the kitty litter.

It took me 50 lbs of litter - my entire backup stash - to mop up a gallon of oil. Then I hiked a couple hundred yards down the street to the gas station. They wanted $4.50 a QUART for oil so I kept walking to the Carquest next door. I picked up 5 quarts of no-name 5-30 for only $14.

I hiked back home and slid under the truck again. Wiped the filter down really good (I usually buy Frams for the nubby grippy stuff on the filter, but the Bosch deal was too good to pass up) and carefully took it off. When it came off, so did the old seal. Shit.

Well. I will NEVER forget to make sure I get the old filter AND SEAL off again. Ever. That one stupid little mistake cost me $13 for oil and filter, $25 for kitty litter, $14 for MORE oil, and god what if I'd sat staring at that gauge for another minute and wrecked the engine. :(

I put 4.5 quarts in - thinking, correctly, that ALL the old oil hadn't spewed out - then stared at my truck for a very long time. I checked that everything was really on tight, bit my lip, and started it up.

You know what? The oil gauge DOES go up right away when you turn the engine on.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ok picture time

So my (non-horsey) husband was in town over the weekend and I twisted his arm and made him come to my lesson and take pictures. Now I kinda wish I hadn't. My god, my thighs are ENORMOUS. Eek.

Here's the new crossties / tacking up area. Isn't it pretty? And so organized? (No, it's not usually this organized - they'd just moved everything over there.) And yep, I slung my saddle over the wall instead of using the saddle stand, because I am a heathen who is not used to niceties such as saddle stands and I didn't notice it. Sigh.


Ok, I don't know what is with the look on my face here. I must've been in the middle of saying something to Clipper. Anyway, Clipper isn't actually pissed off, he's just a lazy old horse. That position was just him stoppping as soon as he was halfway in the right spot in the crossties. He never moved a foot til I'd finished brushing and tacking up and unclipped him.

The spot on his left hind is an old healed scar.


This is the best picture of us cause my legs don't look too horrid here.


The blue tights belong to the BO who was kind of teaching a double lesson. I am (obviously) still working on (fighting with) my legs, so she had me walk around and two-point at each light pole. It's really hard for me to two-point at a walk, without that "push" from the trot, but it also kept me thinking about which muscles I was using to push up, what my torso was doing, where my calves were going, etc.


I dunno. I am very tempted to say I shall never again let pictures of me riding be taken, but that's counterproductive. Maybe I'll make my husband come take pics like once a month so eventually I'll see some improvement. I shudder to think how horrible I looked when I started!

I mean, really, WTF are my feet DOING here? And this was obviously one of the moments when I was not thinking about my torso. At least Clipper looks calm and bored, and I'm not snatching at his mouth.


Ok, the BO was talking and demonstrating exactly which muscles I should've been using to rise out of the saddle with.

MY FEET WHAT FFFFFFFFF I am getting more and more bemused by this.


ANYWAY. That's me, on Clipper, trying to learn to ride. fffffffff!

I went by and paid my stall rent today. I requested a longe line lesson for Sunday - the BO agreed that it would probably be helpful. I think it really will - if I can stop worrying about telling the horse to move forward and turn and all that, I can get this figured out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy birthday to me!

Yep, I am 31 today. Definitely old enough to know better. Think it'll stop me? Naaaahhh...

I rode over the weekend - and my husband took PICTURES! - but I don't feel like sorting through them and making a real post yet. Probably tomorrow. I went and visited my horses today, too - I didn't actually ride, just loved on Champ and Silky and talked to Kelly while our dogs played. Then I came home and fixed a bizarre yet satisfying meal of bean tostadas, beer, and dark chocolate ganache. Now I'm going to check my horse blog friends and read a Dresden Files novel. Yay for peaceful birthdays.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I look like a skeet :(

I took off a little early today to get a ride in. Cersei is insufferable if she goes more than two days without serious exercise, but I was just too tired yesterday so she had to wait. Anyway, I zoomed home and grabbed Cersei, zoomed out to the field and grabbed Champ, and donned my new Anti-Deer-Hunter device.

See, I came down with a cold Sunday so I took off work Monday and laid around the house and slept a lot. I also went to the library and to Walmart, which is a major ordeal for me. I hate Walmart, on a bunch of different levels - (liberal) it's destroying America and it's a horrible place to work, (foodie) the "food" there is destroying our bodies, and (funder) I get lost and can't find what I need. Anyway. So I had a cold and felt woozy and out of it and I *still* went to Wal Mart. I bought exactly what I intended to buy ... plus a hunter orange baseball cap for $2.50. I have a hunter orange knit cap for when it's cold, but people have been back in or near our trails target shooting a lot lately and I pity the fool who shoots me but doesn't kill me.

So today was day one of "I am not a large deer." We headed out, at a walk/trot, but then Champ acted like a retard and made me mad so we trotted more. Good news - knees on definitely feels more natural now, and I got a really nice rhythm where I felt like my torso was very centered.

Then the damn shooting started again. As soon as I'd started out - like, when I was untying the gate to get onto the trails - I'd noticed somebody had been back there. Very fresh tire tread prints. I assumed it was one of the guys who'd gone fishing, but when the shooting started I realized whoever it was was still back there. Champ thought we should run away, but I assumed it was Ross back there and we pressed on.

I made damn sure that the shooty noises weren't "moving" and that I could hear where the shots started and stopped. My trail wasn't taking me anywhere within the range of fire, and I DID have a lovely hunter orange cap on, so I rode on back. When I figured out where they were, I called Ross to ask if that was him back there. By the time I got him on the phone, I was within hailing distance so I hollered hello. Turns out it wasn't Ross at all, it was three youngish rednecks dudes in camo skeet shooting over the lake. I rode up and said hi. We talked for a minute - they laughed and said my cap looked just like a skeet, and I laughed and said I was hoping that I didn't look like a deer. Then Champ insisted we LEAVE so we left.

I know the barn owner's gonna be like "Well why didn't you tell them it was private property and that they needed to leave!" and you know what? Hell with that. I know our world is mostly civilized, and I wasn't expecting they'd jump me or shoot me. But I sure wasn't going to get near them, or get off my horse, or say anything remotely confrontational. Didn't seem prudent.

ANYWAY. Then we trotted back home, and again, I felt really secure and comfortable posting. I'm gonna call the BO tomorrow and see if she'd padlock the gate to the back trails. I think most people are too lazy to climb the fence and WALK that far back.

Cersei is sacked out happy and tired. Mission accomplished.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Knees ON everything else off!

Well the title kinda says it all. I was back to trotting on Clipper this week, and my knees were pretty much glued to the saddle. Pretty cool! I seriously felt more secure trotting on him than ever before, and more comfortable trotting PERIOD than ever.

Of course I lost all my other aids and was back to making amoebas. Le sigh. I think by next week I'll regain my errant calves and hands and make some nice circles again.

Clipper was not thrilled. He much preferred last week's walking-only lesson and refused to pick up trot on the left at all. (It's his "bad" side.) I tricked him by riding figure-8's, and I did manage to keep enough leg on to keep him at a trot for at least one "circle" to the left at a time.

He is a huge faker. When I unsaddled him, he wasn't the slightest bit sweaty at all. Horse, you are a LIAR!

After my lesson, I tried to go fishing. Last weekend I fished more than I rode and I caught a dozen bream - Cersei and the cats ate fish for three days, and I still have six in the freezer for me. I guess I'll get brave and cook them this week!

Anyway, last week was my first fishing trip with a rod and reel, and also my first trip where I cruelly slaughtered and butchered my catch. It was pretty horrible and gross for the first few fish, but it got easier.

So today I went back for more. Except... nothing. I fished three different ponds, for probably 2-3 hours total, and didn't get a single hit. One pond I suspect is fishless, and the other two were just full of lazy fish who didn't like my lure. See last week I fished with crickets, and this week I tried some artificial worms that the guys were using (and CATCHING FISH WITH) last week. I suspect I am just not jiggling it around in a way that the fish appreciate, but nonetheless, I yelled at the guys when I saw them. Accused them of sneaking crickets on there with their horrible fake worms. Heh.

I fished two ponds out of my truck, and I made my long suffering Champ cart me and my pole out to the third pond. He was slightly skeptical of the giant stick I was carrying, but didn't pitch a fit at all. I leashed Cersei to a tree (where she usually stays during the actual fishing), and ran a rope between two other trees, through some tall grass, for a high-line for Champ.

And no, I'm not quite sure how I would've gotten the fish home had I actually caught any.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm behind again!

So here you go, two days in one.

Yesterday after work I was in a great mood, so I dashed home and grabbed the dog, then out to the field before dark. Champ was Not Pleased to see me and Not Thrilled about being ridden but I was having none of his lip. We headed off into the trails. My plan was to head back to the third big lake, trotting to keep the light, then turn around and head back to the truck at whatever pace seemed appropriate. Well, it didn't happen.

We got out onto the main trails and I realized that I could definitely hear some damn redneck shooting his damn pistol nearby. I rode to the second large lake and I was pretty sure the shooting was coming from directly ahead of us. Maybe it was just over our property line, on somebody else's property, but maybe it was ON our property. Either way, I don't relish being shot as a deer in the dusk, so I reluctantly turned around. Champ was extremely disgusted with me when I made him trot the circular trails on the last, unused pasture over and over again.

However! I got pretty comfortable hanging on to the horse with my thighs. I could feel when I was doing it wrong and getting pushed away from the horse, and when I was doing it right and just barely touching down before the next trot stride tossed me an inch off the saddle. Pretty cool!

Then today I got up and cleaned the house and cooked a lot. Then I tried to go to Petco to buy cat food, but I wanted to go to the new Petco in Collierville. It's on a major east-west road. I couldn't find the stupid Petco at all (because the road doglegs a lot), and Collierville creeps me out anyway, so I got frustrated and headed home. Then I decided it was stupid to go home even though I was in a horrible sulky mood and I went to the field and rode Dixie.

It was awesome. I put my grumpiness out of mind and very calmly caught her and tacked her up. I took her in the round pen and just hung out with her, with absolutely NO "energy." Wandered along both sides of her, leaned on her saddle while she circled excitedly and when she'd quit circling I'd let up, and then she was standing still and I swung up and she just stood there. No freaking out racking off full speed. Just stood, ears back "listening", kinda nervous but not really. We walked one slow circle around the round pen, then I got off and hung out some more and got back on. My friend (Poppy's new owner) opened the gate and we did just a minimal amount of riding around the field. Maybe 10 minutes total.

I feel like it's really important at this stage to slowly get her in shape and to VERY slowly get her brain in shape. Riding isn't always a lot of terror and work for her. It's hard to believe I've had her almost a year. Sometimes (most of the time) I feel like I haven't made any progress at all with this wildass mare, but days like today I realize it's a lot of plateaus with moments of amazing breakthrough. I didn't really do anything different from what I usually do; she just trusted me and stood still and it all worked.

Horses are awesome. I realize I say that at the end of every third post so I will now backtrack and tell yall why Collierville freaks me out!

Collierville is like a modern-day Mayberry. It's almost all white people who vote Republican and go to church and live in 3000-7000 sq. ft. houses and mom doesn't work cause she's so busy taking the kids to private school and soccer. I wanted to go to that Petco cause the other one is in Southaven, which is a postmodern suburban wasteland of 7-lane highly congested streets with lights every 200 yards. But that would've been better than the truly bizarre feeling of alienation I got in C-ville. I drove through there in my dirty truck with a saddle in the backseat and a happy Lab in the front seat, and it was like I was from another planet.

Also my tags went out at the end of September and I haven't renewed them yet cause I can't decide if I want to get another year in Tennessee for $150 or pay whoknowshowmuch in Mississippi. So I'm constantly worried that the ever-vigilant C-ville cops are going to pull me over for tags. But I'm white in a late-model (dirty) truck so they've left me alone so far.

Tomorrow I'm going to the Petco in Southaven.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cersei :3

I forgot to upload this one! So I took Cersei riding with me of course and she had a great time. When we got home I put her in her crate to eat while I cooked dinner - she was so tired she fell asleep in her food. I had to get a picture :3

Sleepy baby

"Fall" riding

I got out to the field today and took a long slow ramble on Champ. I took pictures, too, so yall can see why "fall" is in quotation marks. Trust me, it's not quote abuse!

I love this big oak. Just about every time I ride, we stop at this bend in the trail and Champ grazes while I look at that oak. Think about what all it's seen in its life! Not too far back in the woods behind it is a falling down old sharecropper shack. I should walk back there and take pictures for yall...

Old oak tree

I like this arty photo. Horse! And deer tracks! IT'S ART!

Horse and deer

Over by the biggest pond, I found some (the only) fall foliage. A baby sweetgum seems to think summer is over and winter is almost here.

Red sweetgum

Here's part of the big pond. I think the red in this picture is a sumac, but they are scrubby shrubs and hardly count as foliage.

I am pretty sure this is a persimmon tree. At first I thought maybe those were wild plums, but that tree is too tall and doesn't look like a plum tree.

Anyway, we trotted quite a bit. I experimented with different ways of posting and holding on with my thighs, and I'm getting the hang of it. A couple times I was deep in the seat, barely rocking forward-and-up, feeling like I could one day actually post without stirrups. Hard work, but I'll get it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Ok. I take it all back. You know how I used to wonder how on earth making circles on a horse could actually be informative or even (gasp) fun? Yeah, ok, with an open mind, a good horse, and the right instructor, it's actually a lot of fun.

First thing this morning, I confessed my canter depart debacle to Hardy. He agreed that he couldn't see my outside leg but yep, I'd asked poor Clipper to canter instead of trot. Then we got our horses saddled up and went out for my lesson.

Yeah, horses! He's going to ride with me for a while, so he can show me stuff instead of just telling me. I would probably be suspicious that he was just being extra nice to my almost-falling-0ff-at-the-canter dumb ass, but we'd talked about it before last week's lesson started.

We spent the entire lesson (which ran a full hour over!) just walking our horses in circles. We talked about trotting, but ended up just doing more walking and more walking and even more walking. It was amazingly informative for me. Those Old Masters of dressage who say you should spend years at the walk are actually on to something.

When I first started this dressage thing, I knew three ways to steer a horse into a turn. Neck reining, inside leg pressure, and "plow reining." By plow rein I mean pull the left rein to turn left, pull the right rein to turn right, pull both of them to stop. Plow reining worked well enough at the beginning, when I was still mainly concentrating on what my hands were doing and where my legs were. I added inside leg pressure pretty quickly and that worked ok, as in, we turned but we didn't remotely make ROUND circles.

Eventually I got my legs better under control, and managed to keep my hands in the general vicinity of the right place. The next hurdle was that elusive outside rein. I think I told yall this a little while back - I used to pick up the inside rein and fling the outside rein away into outer space. My rationale was that I was applying pressure on the inside and I didn't want to apply pressure on both sides cause how would the horse know where to go? In retrospect, this was a foolish idea, but ehh... it seemed like a good idea at the time. ;)

A couple weeks ago I had that huge lightbulb about the outside rein and how it really does contain the energy and blah blah blah. That was totally cool. But it was only part of the picture, apparently.

Today's big lightbulb was, I think, another big piece of the picture. When the circle gets too tight, you can let up a little on the outside rein - to show the horse where to go - and put a little more inside leg and rein pressure - to drive the horse forward-but-sideways-towards-that-outside-rein. Ugh. It's so hard to explain, and no doubt really boring to read about, but it was huge for me. I suspect it's actually really fundamental.

Anyway, all we did was walk in circles. Clipper is a schoolmaster and a sweet old fellow, so he often did the right thing without me doing very much directing. But sometimes he'd get lazy, and if I had enough inside rein to keep him bent and keep his attention on me, and enough inside leg to keep him moving forward, and enough openness on the outside rein - SOMETIMES I could get him to spiral back out and stay bent perfectly softly on the curve. It was breathtaking when it happened.

And sometimes I had not enough leg or not enough rein and he'd spin in tiny circles or just stop and flick his ears back as if he didn't have a clue what I was asking. Man, I love horses. This is so much more fun and rewarding than any comparable hobby I can think of.

The other thing we worked on was, uh, I guess the precursor to collection. I always start off for 10 minutes or so walking around with very light contact letting Clipper stretch out. Then, previously, at some point I'd have normal light contact but much shorter reins, and we'd walk in lopsided ovals or canter in hysterical circles or whatever. Today we worked on how and why the reins magically get shorter. I actually paid attention (without looking at his ears! DO NOT STARE AT HIS EARS, THEY WON'T FALL OFF!) to the way Clipper stretched out and warmed up, then softened his neck and accepted more contact as we continued working.

We talked about trotting, but we ended up doing the whole lesson at a walk. Yes, I was unreasonably nervous about trotting, but I'm fairly good at keeping my body language calm and I know what I did wrong last week. And I was actually learning so much at the walk that I was happy walking. Seriously. I am pretty open about "oh god gonna die" fears on here, and I seriously think I learned more at a walk today than I would've at a trot.

This week's goals for myself: Sorry Champ, this is your week again. I need to work more on that holding on with upper legs thing. If I think about it, I know which muscles to activate, but I need a solid week or two to get it built into my muscle memory. Once I can trot fairly well with my upper thighs really working, I'll canter Champ a bit and see if I can't actually follow his canter with my seat. The real problem is that I'm not at all secure in the canter on Clipper in a dressage saddle. On Champ in my westernish saddle? Yeah, sure, and if I lose it I can just haul back on the reins or yell "trot goddamn you I SAID TROT." Not an option on Clipper.

And Dixie. Need to ride her at least twice this week to see if I can get her nice and loose and relaxed again. I'm not a terrible monster, and I'm not going to let the Monsters in the Trees eat her, and a few more calm easy rides will be really good for her.

And yoga. Dammit. Yoga is still on the list. Must get my ass up earlier and do yoga in the mornings.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Clipper back story

Ok, I got caught up on everybody's horsey doings. My heart goes out to dp! I can't imagine anything as scary as having your horse get hung in her rain sheet like that. Honestly, I just can't quite get behind the idea of horse clothes. I agree that in the northwest with all that rain you really do need rain sheets, but the rest of it? Ehhh. Spend a lot of money on clothes for your horse, which he'll lose in the bushes asap or will snag on something and injure him.

But that's not the point! The point is I am going to tell you about last week's death-defying ride on Clipper before I go have another one tomorrow.

Last Sunday was another really amazing lesson. I am learning SO much! I can't explain it to non horse people so I don't even try. They get all confused because I clearly already know how to ride so why am I taking riding lessons? Well, I'm taking lessons cause I've been doin' it wrong. I don't have a lot of terrible habits per se, but there's definitely a lot of room for fundamental improvement.

We walked and circled and talked about I don't know what, then we started trotting. Hardy immediately focused on my knees and toes. He's been telling me to turn my toes in and grip with my knees, but I honestly never understood it til last week. Aren't you supposed to not grip with your knees, so you don't squeeze yourself out of that deep balanced seat? Apparently I have been going to the other extreme this whole time.

I've spent all week thinking about it, and I am pretty sure I spent two years riding by balance alone. The stirrups were there for me to plant a foot in if I lost my balance, but otherwise - I just balanced. Doin' it wrong.

Anyway, I was trotting in a circle and Hardy said "squeeze with your knees and turn your toes in" (like he's been saying every single lesson) and I finally heard him. I kinda rotated my legs in and gripped with my thighs. All of a sudden my toes went straight ahead and I was actually posting without pushing off the stirrups. It didn't last long, a couple strides, then I lost the curve and Clipper sputtered back down to a walk, but the lightbulb had gone on.

Seriously. I was always so puzzled by articles I'd read online about "posting without stirrups." I was especially baffled when Stacey started yapping about how she was doing all this schooling and trail riding without stirrups. Well, now I know - you use your thighs to help you cling like a monkey.

Back to Clipper. We were still working on trotting circles (which is way more fun that I thought it would be). Trot a few circles, walk and critique, trot, walk, pick up the reins and squeeze with my calves, ENORMOUS CANTER DEPART. I briefly thought about grabbing rein, decided that was certain death, said "nnnngh, TROT" and sat down deep and just like that we were back in a trot. I trotted one circle then halted and started laughing. It was like everything went horribly wrong then I actually did stuff right and got a nice downward transition and a beautiful circle and I posted it perfectly. Total roller coaster.

We stopped and talked about it. I asked Hardy if I'd done something wrong or if Clipper was hurting in some way I couldn't see, cause in my prior experience horses usually only take off when they're in pain. Hardy said no, Clipper was fine and maybe just ready to run cause he hadn't gotten turned out lately? (Remember he's allergic to trees or pollen or something and can't go out every day.) So the horse wasn't hurting, I wasn't too freaked out, and we did it again.

And he took off again. That time I was quite sure I was dead. About to die. It's been fun, see ya in the next life. I lost my inside stirrup AND my balance (because I had just figured out the whole thigh thing and my muscle memory still "needs" stirrups to save me) so I flung myself forward and grabbed a bunch of mane AND dropped the goddamn outside rein. Every single stride I thought the same series of thoughts:

Jesus no stirrup no balance horse very angry. Oh god gonna die.
Shut up, you pussy, look how soft and fluffy that arena dirt is. And you're not dead yet. Talk to the horse.
"Woaaaah Clipper easy baby easy boy trot please."
Ok that didn't work sit back you fucking idiot sit back and he'll slow down!

Then I'd try to sit back, realize I had no stirrup and if I wrapped my calves around him for balance he'd really lose his mind, and start thinking about how I was about to die again.

This went on forever. Probably 3 or 4 laps. Of course Hardy was talking to both of us, trying to get me to sit back and Clipper to ignore the crazy monster on his back and trot. We spiraled in a bit closer to Hardy and slowed down a bit. Hardy told me to pick up on my inside rein and I somewhat hysterically informed him that I had no inside rein and he said "Yes you do!" I moved my inside hand and lo and behold there was a rein in it and Clipper dropped to a walk and stopped.

But you know what? I didn't fall off and I didn't freak Clipper out so badly he crashed into the fence or tripped or anything. I wasn't actually going to die even if I did fall off - I had my stupid helmet on and it truly is lovely fluffy dirt, no rocks or tree branches or anything. And you know what's even cooler? As I was writing this up, I realized what I'd done wrong.

You experienced dressage riders are going to DIE laughing at me.

I asked the fucking horse for a fucking canter depart so he cantered. Both times.

Yep. Hardy didn't know, cause he couldn't see my outside leg, but it was definitely behind the girth. I was thinking "ok you start trotting and I'll use my outside leg to contain you while the inside rein leads you and blah blah blah" but Clipper heard "ok canter." So he did.

So that's the story of my TWO lightbulb moments, one last Sunday and one today.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Ok, so dp and Daun and Stacey already have this, so I won't pass it back although they deserve it.

I got this Arte y Pico award from Stacey. It was obviously a mistake, cause I just kinda ramble about my horses and sometimes I don't even post at all for like two weeks, but I will try to live up to it.

There are some Rules that come with the Award:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award-winning, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4) Award-winning and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) To show these rules

I don't speak Spanish (well, I can order up to quatro cervezas por favor but I don't think that counts) so if you do, go click over to the original site and tell me what it's all about please!

Ok, here's my Fab Five:

First, go read Paige's blog. Every single day has an average of 3 new posts of hilarious chaos. Currently, the pig is eating her Halloween decorations and the husband is cussing Paige because teaching the yearlings to lead is driving him mad. When she's not making me laugh so hard I pee myself, she's taking pretty pictures.

Next go check out White Horse Pilgrim. Unlike me and Paige, he manages to be lyrical and poetic on a regular basis.

Like WHP, Tuffy is pretty poetic when the mood strikes him. He's also a funny yet down to earth horse.

Mugwump has a zillion readers already, but I really like her stories and her take on horse training, so she needs a shout out too.

And for the token non-horse-blog, put Cool Tools in your blog reader. It's just like it sounds - cool tools. All nominated/endorsed by real people who really liked some weird gadget and sent it in to KK. You'll never need most of them, but you'll enjoy reading about all of them.

Now - I'm off to look at previous winners!

Cowgirl up!

Ok, so, yesterday when I went out to the field I saw Ross there. (I keep wanting to say "went to the barn" but it's not a barn, it's a field with a house where horses live, so I'm just going to call it "the field" for short.) Ross is a little younger than me and in some way I didn't fully understand intimately connected with the field and the barn. He works at the barn (the real barn, the full-board-and-training place) on the weekends, doing the twice daily feeding, turning in and out, and picking stalls. But he also has two horses out at the field - Blackjack, an ancient QH, and Tequila, a stunningly bad-tempered Walker/QH who reminds me a lot of Champ.

Anyway, he was out there and we were both planning on riding so we went out on the trails. He took Tequila in his new-used Aussie, and I rode Champ. The sun was setting as we headed out, but we didn't care - we came back well after dark. Moon's almost full and the horses know the trails. We agreed to ride again tonight, so I headed back out to the barn about 5.

I found Dixie right away and spent a long time just messing with her. Brushed her down really well, trimmed her mane*, led her around for a while. I led her over to a little patch of brush and broke off a hedge plant branch**. She stared at me all wild eyed waiting for me to whack her with it. I broke off the tip and offered it to her. Dixie kept staring at me for a loooong moment, snuffled the greenery, let out a huge sigh, and tried it. She decided it was edible and I spent 10 minutes just feeding her branches.

*My beautiful show horse is no more. She's yanked out vast amounts of her long white mane on the fences. I'm so halfway-sad when I see white hunks of hair in the fences - she had a gorgeous mane, a good two feet long. But she had such a wonderful mane cause she was always stuck in a stall. I kinda bought her to set her free, and a scraggly mane is a consequence of her freedom - so I'm happy and sad about it. Anyway, I trimmed it to where it's roughly all the same length, about 8 inches.

**I don't know what they are. We country bumpkins call them hedge plants. They make nice hedges if you trim them, and they make small shrubby trees if you don't. Champ loves to snack on them so I don't think they're poisonous to horses.

Ross showed up, so I decided to try to get on the spazz. Dixie went from "relaxed calm happy mare" to "crazy circling beast" as soon as I got a toe in the stirrup, so I got Ross to hold her and got on. I rode her around the field for a few minutes to get the nervous energy burned off while Ross fixed the gate to the trails. Then the BO called - Ross's horse was out, across the street. Argh. Ross headed down the road in his truck and I decided to ride the fenceline and see if I could see where he'd gotten out.

Ross caught his horse, the BO showed up, and the rest of the afternoon was devoted to riding fences. Trust me - this ain't the wild west and it's not very photogenic. Very few sections of the fence have grass near them; it's mostly scrubby little trees and big old trees with low hanging branches and knots of thorn bushes.

It was AWESOME for me and Dixie. I kept having to get off and lead her through the brush and then get back on. We'd ride near her horse buddies (happy Dixie) then away from them (sad freakin out Dixie), then repeat. We'd go fast down real trails, then slow through the trees, then stop while the humans all talked. The whole north fence line of the northern pasture turned out to be falling down, so we ended up moving all the horses from the north pasture back to the south pasture. I got off and led Dixie as I herded my evil twins back down to the south gate.

After an hour or so of this, she was totally chilled out.

I can usually tell a gaited horse from a trotting horse just by watching them move at leisure in a field. Gaited horses, to me, look double-jointed or exceptionally limber or something. It's hard to describe, but yall probably know what I'm talking about! Champ and Silky are gaited, yeah, but Dixie is extra-limber at liberty. She walks like she has Slinkies for legs. She'd never walked that loose under saddle, though - she always felt like she was on the verge of freaking out, like she was super tense and ready to explode. Tonight, finally, I got her to walk totally relaxed. It was awesome! Not actually easy to ride. Like.. you know how when you sit the trot you really work to keep your ass in the saddle and your upper torso steady? It was the same thing, just at a walk.

Also I got a bit of running walk out of her. She usually speed-racks, which is SUPER FUN to ride but not the "ideal" gait. I think (based on what I've read about gaits) that the horse has to be a little more relaxed to do a RW, but even a tense gaited horse can rack. Most of the TWH/gaited horse videos on youtube show racking or pacing horses. I should link some vids for yall.

It wasn't the ride I planned on, but it turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun, and a wonderful "lesson" for Dixie. I am obviously pretty bad about picking out something to actually Work On and Working On It but I do try to remember that I'm always teaching the horse something.

Tomorrow I'll post the story of my Wild Ride on Clipper last weekend. And maybe some gaited horse examples. I am pretty sure that you poor benighted souls just don't know what you're missing and that's why you all (except Sara) ride trotting horses. :P

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I swear I am not dead

I know it looks that way!

I've been so busy (but not in a good way) and I keep thinking "god I need to sit down and write all this up" but then I get too busy and don't and it's even more daunting the next day.

So look, I'll hit the high points tonight and tomorrow I'll start filling in the blanks. (Assuming half my readers don't disappear after point #1)

1. I'm selling Poppy. To a really good lady, who wanted a draft and just totally fell in love with him and is keeping him at my field and getting him trained and promised she'd sell him back to me if she can't keep him. I feel halfway guilty for "giving up" on him but I really feel it's the right thing to do. She adores him, she has the money to get him trained, and he's where I can keep an eye on him. I adore him, but I don't have the money to pay for training OR the time to do it myself. And once I get him trained, I just don't know if I will have the time to rotate riding three horses enough.

2. I moved! To a nice quiet apartment complex only 3 miles from the horses. It's heavenly. The move itself was horrid, but now that I'm here and halfway unpacked it's quite nice.

3. I DID NOT DIE on Clipper last week. Had an amazing lesson last Sunday with some real mental breakthroughs for me, plus some bonus wild-ass cantering (more like dead run bolting) during which I did not fall off and die.

4. I still have no lawyer job and am still working on it. In retrospect, going to law school three years ago was pretty foolish considering what the economy has done since I passed the bar. I knew that there was a housing bubble, and that it would collapse one day, but even in my most pessimistic moments I didn't think it would affect the general economy the way it has. Sigh. I'm thinking that if I don't have a lawyer job by the end of the year I'm going to try for Navy (or possibly Air Force?) JAG.

Also I understand that I got a blog award thingie? I saw that right before I moved (and thus stress++ and no internet, poor me!) and I have some good candidates in mind.

More tomorrow. I promise. Pinky swear.