Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years!

I never do these stupid resolution things, because my life is bizarre and unpredictable and I don't plan ahead real well. I think I'll try a few simple ones this year though.

I want to show Dixie, at least a couple of times. I don't have high hopes of winning, and I don't really care if we do or don't. I just want her to have some positive experiences in the show ring, learn to stay calm in terrifying situations with me around, that kind of thing.

She's been shown before - she was padded and shown locally before she was two, then when she washed out as a padded horse, she was shown in heavy shoes locally as a three year old. Somehow I don't think she had much fun at those shows. She'll be five this spring, and dammit, we're going to go and have a good ride. Ignore the bad, reward the good.

I want to jump, on purpose, this year. That just means I need to get a better seat, which I'm working on. I have plenty of experience jumping poorly and on accident. It'd be nice to learn to do it correctly and on purpose!

I want to finish exploring the subdivisions around my field. I'd kinda like to be able to do a big loop through the neighborhood whenever I feel like it... but what's the point of going on a big ride without my dog? It's really just not as much fun without Cersei, and I don't want to risk her getting smushed by a car. I think I'll try to work out some way to leash her to Champ. Field triallers somehow manage to handle a hound on a long line tied to a horse, and if they can do it I can do it. Champ is the obvious choice for this plan. He'd get offended if (when) Cersei tangled the lead around him, but he wouldn't come unglued.

Hell, while we're at it - I want to go to a field trial. I know a guy who goes regularly, and I've been working on getting him to take me. I bet I can try one out this year. Sounds like fun.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Schoolin' Dixie

Today was Dixie's turn again. I took T and Goblin and we went out into the fallow soybean field so I could, uh, pretend to school my mare. (I feel like a bit of a fraud.) Exciting wildlife alert: we saw 9 (!!!) turkeys and a big doe. Oh, and a dead box turtle. The turtle was odd - he was on his back, but I could see that his upper shell had been broken. I'd think that if a dog/coyote/fox had gotten him, the carnivore would've gotten in through the bottom shell, the plastron. So I wonder if a redtailed hawk had snagged the turtle from a nearby lake and dropped it in the field to break it open? Do hawks DO that? Anyway, that's my working theory.

Horse stuff: The double reins were slightly easier to handle, yay! I kept working mainly on following her head as she walked, and helping her bend her whole body into the circles we made.

Her head nod is immense, really it is. I have to move my arms about six inches to follow her when she's just walking around slowly. The head nod decreases as she gaits faster; I think it's a function of that pseudo-collection that gaited horses do to gait.

We had a couple of really nice curves a few times. I can't really do round circles yet - I'm not good at "seeing" the circle in my mind, it's a big field with no frame of reference, and her "sun" is back toward her field. It's funny how dressage articles always talk as if a horse is just floating around the arena, when every real horse I've ever been on has been attracted more to one area/direction. It's like they drift toward the gate, or drift toward home, or drift away from that menacing tree/shadow/horse-eating-monster. This was the first time Dixie had been in that field, so she was naturally attracted to the direction of her home.

Anyway, I worked a bit on keeping the same bend and speed when we were headed toward home and away from it, and I did a few spirals in and out. I'm trying to show her what leg aids are and that they're not out to get her. She used to come completely unglued at any leg at all, and she's still inclined to panic about leg, but she's getting better.

After we headed back to her field, I reintroduced her to a whip. She was astonishingly headshy when I first got her; I'm almost positive the persons who broke her to ride got her to gait by spurring her to speed up and whacking her on the head with a whip if she trotted or cantered. It worked, I suppose, but it left her with just a few issues. I got T to hand me the dressage whip verrry slowly, then I cautiously held it away from Dixie's butt and asked her to walk off.

Then I accidentally let the whip flop a bit and the very tip of it touched her butt so we racked in circles for a while. Sigh.

Once I got her listening to me again I started gently running the whip all over her neck and butt, both sides. After I got off, I kept meddling with her with the whip. She was more intrigued than frightened - she kept stretching out to stare at it and smell it.

Pretty successful ride, all together. I do feel like a fraud, because I know how very little I know. :( But I'm gonna keep plugging on with this, because I don't have the money or the desire to send her away to a high-end gaited trainer and I just haven't found anybody local who is both classically-oriented and familiar with gaited horses. I don't know what I want from her; maybe I don't want anything in particular from her. I think I just want to unlock that awesome mare that's hiding inside the scared one.

Post-Christmas rides

So I've had a pretty good weekend. Lots of riding, of course!

Friday I rode Champ back out to the shack and took some more pictures. He was remarkably good-natured about the whole thing. I fussed with my leg position for a long time then got frustrated and rode home without stirrups. Stupid things are definitely hung too far forward. I'm still trying to decide what to do, in the long term, about that.

Saturday I went to Frayser and rode with James. I got to ride Rascal, James' incredibly fast racking horse, and James rode Surprise, who is still a psycho. A bucking psycho at that. Anyway, I took a bunch of pictures of the trails because I swear to god yall wouldn't believe them otherwise.

This is pretty blurry, but it's representative.

More mud and ruts!

Here's the train bridge. The space under the bridge is just high enough that riding underneath on a tall horse, you can reach up and brush the bridge with your fingertips.
Tracks again

It feels very postapocalyptic back there. Junk, trees, four wheelers, and horses. It's not much of a stretch to imagine zombies too.

There's quite a few long smooth straightaways too. Gas pipeline access roads and open fields. It's a nice mix of places where you can really stretch a horse out in his fast gait versus horrible soupy slippy mudholes where the horse has to pick his way along. A good ride with good company.

Cersei came with us, of course. We rode for nearly two hours, and she had a blast. James and I laughed, thinking about her first few trail rides as a puppy. We'd all start out together, me and James on our horses with puppy-Cersei gamely following. After a quarter mile or so, she'd be worn out so she'd run in front of us, sit down, and start barking. James would get off, grab her, and pass her up to me. I'd stick her in a messenger bag and off we'd go again. After a mile or so she'd squirm and holler so I'd let her down. She'd run like hell for another quarter mile before we started the whole thing over again. I guess it was annoying, but they're not puppies for very long. :)

Sunday I had another frustrating lesson. Things are still slowly coming together, I think. When I read Daun's year in review post, I got all depressed. Seven dressage lessons at the start of '08? Aaaarrrgh why do I suck so ba- wait. She's been riding correctly, with instruction, for like 5x longer than I've been bouncing around in blissful ignorance. I'm probably doing fine.

After the lesson, I went and tried Dixie with double reins. JME had suggested it, in the comments on her post about bitless bridles, and it worked quite well. I had the curb for when she got panicked about the strange feel of the snaffle rein, and the snaffle rein actually did encourage her to bend her body instead of scrambling through a turn only using her feet.

I only rode her for about 30 minutes. Dixie needs to build up stamina, but I think it's important to not fall into a pattern of working her hard every time I ride. Whenever I'm out there, she follows me around like a very large and very nervous puppy. I don't want to squash her interest in me.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Oh crap

I knew I forgot something. I was supposed to tag other people for the six things! (Yall can make these things as goofy and trivial as you'd like, of course!)



Crazy lawyers:
Paige (Haha, she's never going to be able to come up with six things she hasn't already said!)

Go write something then tag other people.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Six things

I owe White Horse Pilgrim the six things you may not know about me. It's supposed to be six random things, but how am I supposed to pick "random" things? Make a giant list of all things which are known about me and pick six random numbers? Anyway. Six things.

  1. I went to college when I was 14. Skipped right past high school, which I've never once felt like I missed, and went to Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia. There were, oh, 15 or 20 of us young'uns starting each year, so I wasn't all alone or anything.
  2. I love to cook, especially baking. I really enjoy learning the chemistry behind the recipes, and I love getting in the kitchen and whipping out stupidly intricate desserts. Puff pastry and croissants, stuff like that. Oddly, I enjoy cooking more than eating.
  3. I have a huge weakness for fantasy / sci fi novels, although my standards have greatly improved over the years. Yes, when I was 12 I wanted a Companion, but I'm more than content with a real horse these days!
  4. I have never broken a bone! (Yet!)
  5. I've been married twice, divorced once. I'm still friends with my ex, who is a goofy nerd. We don't have a clue why we got married, really.
  6. I am fairly good at Nethack - I've ascended two Valkyries and a Wizard, and got damn close on a Rogue once. It's my fallback game. If there's nothing else to do and no internet, there's always Nethack!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More catchup!

So Sunday I rode all day. It was sunny and gorgeous and fairly cold, like I mentioned before, so I wore a couple extra shirts and my gloves.

My dressage lesson was frustrating, again. I cannot get that damn pony to trot for love or money. When she did condescend to trot (cause Hardy trotted by on his horse), however, we did something really cool. We jumped!

She chose to trot for me once, and we trotted the cavalletti. We came back to a walk, and Hardy and I talked for a bit, then we convinced Princess Val to trot again, and Hardy sent me over this completely tiny jump - like a low X jump set on its lowest side, really intended to be a trot exercise. I was all "Nooooo way!" and he was like "trot it!" so we trotted up to it... and Val gave a tiny little hop from the trot.

I did not fall off, and I did not yank on her mouth, and I did not even get really off balance. Pretty cool!

At the end of the hour, we swapped horses and Hardy, of course, barely had to squeeze to get her to trot. He thinks that my legs are still a bit too far forward. I am somewhat skeptical and suspect the horse loves to torment me, but I will go next week in a good attitude and try getting my legs a bit further back. I sulk on here, but I do try to listen, learn, etc. during lessons. ;)

After that, I drove up to my old barn and went riding with James. He was riding some big rangy horse he swore was gaited - not his, one he was reriding for the barn owner - and I got to ride SSB. SSB is James' very own young pyscho TWH/SSH. We went on a fairly long ride, over two hours. The trails there are just as bad as I remembered, nothing but deep ruts and slushy mud and roaring 4 wheelers.

SSB is a fun little ride. She's as bad as Dixie used to be about not standing for a rider to mount; you've really got to scramble on board and go racking away fumbling for the off stirrup. She has pretty good steering. When James got her, she was incredibly pacey - he's gotten her to where she does a tolerable and fast stepping pace. If yall are interested, I could go into a lot of detail about gaits, but I feel like I ramble way too much anyway.

SSB didn't have brakes at first, til she got used to the way I ask for a halt. I have a minor talent for teaching walking horses to woah - nobody EVER gives them ANY release, because you "gotta" hang on their mouths at all time. If I can get the first pause, I release really fast and they get absolute loose rein unless they start to move their feet again. It works, it really does.

We had a fantastic if chilly ride til we turned for home. The two long fields on the way back were absolutely brutal with the wind whipping by - my (uninsulated) thighs were numb and my (uncovered) face was burning from the wind. Ugh. When we got back, the flappy loose end of my girth strap was frozen stiff with icemud. Double ugh!

At one point, SSB slipped in the mud and went down on her knees and I was sure that we were both about to get a frozen mud facial. But astonishingly, I never went off balance and she scrambled right back up. And even more astonishingly, I wasn't terrified that I was going to end up dragged or trampled or launched into a tree. The lessons are paying off in so many ways!

I can't decide whether to feel guilty or not. SSB is pretty young and we rode HARD. If she was my horse, I wouldn't ride her that hard. But the thing is, she's not my horse and she gets ridden that hard all the time. I rode her balanced and with kind hands. I didn't push her to GO GO GO, she's just a young psycho who chooses to GO GO GO nonstop for miles. And if I hadn't ridden her, she wouldn't have gotten the day off - just ridden with hard hands instead. Sooo... not my horse, not my rules.


K and her friend towed me out of the mud. It was dicey, we almost got them stuck too a couple times. Then K and crew left and I made Graham take videos of me on Dixie. First time I've ever taken her out on that road and she did fine!

Daun's Vimeo videos look better than her Youtube videos, so I signed up with them. I hope this works?

Dixie, Christmas Eve from Funder on Vimeo.

Got a couple more I'm going to put up on Vimeo so click over there if you want to see more of her. She's mainly doing a flatwalk in these, but a couple of times I got her up to a running walk, I think.

Utter fail

Drove out to the field, promptly got stuck in the mud. I am ready to cry. I can't deal with the thought of calling any of the guys I know who have winches. I hate life.

Catch up - Dixie

In the last three days, I've made 5 full size pies and 4 mini pies. All apple, and all from scratch. This means that I've got my mojo back with making and handling pie crust dough, but I HATE APPLES. Each full pie takes just under 3 lbs of apples, so I've peeled and sliced over 15 lbs of apples. My husband and I have been to the grocery store 4 times for pies alone, because while I know what ingredients I need, I can't remember to buy them all at once.

I gave one to one of my uncles yesterday. It was worth making it - he was initially skeptical that I could make a homemade pie, but when I peeled the foil back from the frozen pie he got the biggest grin on his face. Today I'll give the rest away. Two more uncles, my godmother, and my mother in law. The mini-pies got dropped off with my parents; we'll cook them and I suppose I'll eat a slice tomorrow. After actually making so many damn pies I have no interest in eating one right now but ehhh I bet I'll enjoy it tomorrow.

Ok, horses. Saturday I loaned K my clicker training book and showed off Poppy's little repertoire of tricks. Right now, he thinks she's a walking treat dispensary and has a whole lot of attitude toward her. She's doing round pen work with him (and I'm coaching her, cause her body language isn't really assertive yet) but she loves to give him treats. Really, who doesn't love giving a horse treats? I suggested she keep giving him all the treats she wants but actually make him work for them. I think it'll help get his mind back in the "she's the boss" mode.

Then T, who had been waiting fairly patiently, asked if I was going to ride??! I said yeah, but I wanted to ride Dixie and if she wanted to go she'd have to go FAST. (A few days ago, we watched the good parts of Talladega Nights again and my inner 5 year old is constantly screaming "I WANNA GO FAST!") She agreed, I saddled up, and away we went.

Dixie was excellent. She trusted me enough to skitter past the Washing Machine Monster, and go slow up and down hills, and not try to tree me in the woods. I don't think a long trail ride is the place to ask your horse to be on the bit, so I mostly rode with a bit of slack in the reins. A few times I gathered them up and worked on following her head nod and asking her to connect with me, and she did well. One time in the woods she almost came unglued - got really nervous and tucked her chin to her neck and started dancing around - but I talked really calmly to her and kept her responding to my cues and she relaxed again.

I did do something horrible. I didn't mean to! We walked up to a tiny little stream that crosses the trail - maybe a foot wide, maybe four inches deep. I wasn't paying enough attention to her body language and I assumed she was quivering and twitching trying to work up her nerve to step over it. She wasn't - she was getting ready to jump the little stream. I had too much contact on the reins for a jump and I wasn't mentally or physically ready to jump and I really yanked her mouth when she popped over the stream. DAMMIT. Of course, it was pretty obvious in retrospect that she was about to jump. It feels different, somehow, when they're tensed up all over ready to jump versus when they're tensed up ready to step over an obstacle, and I should've been listening better. Sigh.

After we got back, I realized that I hadn't once thought I was about to die. I think I told yall before how I deal with The Fear - I get scared, I consciously realize I'm scared, and I set the fear aside by thinking "Welp, it's been fun, gonna die when I do this," and I calmly do it. I didn't have to go through that routine at all Saturday. Pretty cool!

Our weather is CRAYZEE. Saturday it was warmish, in the 50s (12-13). Sunday was cold, sunny, and windy, with a high of 32 in the morning and down a few more degrees by afternoon. Monday was cold again, Tuesday it rained all day and hovered just above freezing, and last night a huge warm front blew in. It's 66 (19) right now! Tomorrow should be a little colder, then Friday it's supposed to hit 71 (22)!! The point of telling you this isn't to make you jealous, but to illustrate that today is a great day to go ride and right now, I am going to ride instead of telling you about Sunday.

We've got dinner with Graham's mom tonight, then dinner with my parents tomorrow night. I'll get back to blogging and fill you in on Sunday real soon. May you all have a really happy holiday, and if you get tasty homemade food then hug your cook!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weekend update

Yeah yeah, I know it's Tuesday already.

WHP - I am thinking about my 6 things post! The rest of yall - I'm reading your posts at least!

See, I had a great plan for Christmas. It was a truly stellar gift-giving plan - I'll just make and freeze apple pies for my family. They're tasty, and they're frozen unbaked so the recipients can just bake them when they are in the mood.

So the week after Thanksgiving I bought all my supplies, and then I talked myself out of making them that weekend. Pies take up a lot of freezer space! Then I simply procrastinated until Sunday, when all of a sudden I realized "holy shit it's less than a week til Christmas."

I rode for like 5 hours Sunday, then came home all in a tizzy and made pies for another 5 hours. Yesterday I cleaned the house and made pies for another 4 hours - I'm getting faster! I need more pie pans and more apples, but today I should be able to knock out the last three pies without too much stress.

I'll post something exciting soon.

Oh - if you want to be my friend on Facebook you can see pictures of me from when I was 15. My college friends have found some ancient pics!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sharecropping and a WTF?

First, the WTF. What are these weird tracks? Right now I'm thinking ... deer, but somehow they're hitting with two feet in almost exactly the same spot.

Mystery tracks 1 Mystery tracks 2

But the actual indentations don't show two cloven hooves! Or pad/claw indentations, like a canid. Way too small to be horse prints. Very deeply indented into the ground.

Ok, sharecroppers. Wikipedia has a typically dry explanation. Sharecropping was our very own rigid class system. Some families owned a lot of land, but didn't have enough cash to pay people to farm it for them. Instead they'd sublease plots of land and collect rent as a percentage of the crops grown, usually dictating what crops and how many acres had to be truck crops. Back then (both before and after the Civil War, up to about WWII), the cash crop was mostly cotton but could've been soybeans.

It's not like anybody had a really easy life back then, but being a sharecropper was a particularly shitty life. They lived in truly terrible houses - best they could build, and better than a lot of the world lives in today, but MAN. We're talking 50 or 60 years ago people lived in tarpaper shacks, drank from cisterns, used outhouses.

I've seen quite a few of them. My dad makes birdhouses from their old wood (from houses, barns, corncribs, whatever) and I've helped him tear down a few. I think the birdhouse thing is cool; at least the wood is getting re-used and remembered.

Anyway, here's the remains of someone's home. It was used til pretty recently; they had electricity!

View approaching it.
Little shack in the woods

Power box outside, and the exterior of the house. The wood is almost certainly cypress, 1 inch thick by however wide the log was, fairly rough-hewn.
They had lights!

Here's the inside view of the fuse box. They had TWO 15 amp circuits! Livin' large.
They covered up the cracks in the boards with a couple layers of cardboard, then put some wallpaper on top of that to make it look prettier. For some reason the little "pretty" touches just break my heart. Every woman wants her house to look pretty.
Not one but TWO 15 amp circuits!

Something made a cozy den under the floor. Look at that heinous linoleum! I bet this room was the kitchen - easy enough to sweep an unfinished wood floor clean, but you can't keep a kitchen clean with just a broom.
A den under the floor

This is a pretty cool shot if I do say so myself. :) It's pretty obviously the bedroom.
Artsy shot

This kind of stuff really moves me in a lot of different ways. Somebody really lived there. Kids grew up in that house who are near retirement age, but they're still alive. It's surreal to me that the world has changed so much in their lifetimes, but it's also surreal to me that 20th century Americans lived like that!

I haven't mentioned race. Most sharecroppers were black, but not all of them. It's much more of a class thing than a race thing.

That's all the pictures I had time for. I'd left T to hold both the horses while I went in to take pictures, and she was a little "oh god where'd you go" freaked out. I'm planning on going back with a halter on under Champ's bridle and tying him to a tree and getting all the cool pics of that house that I could ever want.

Oh, housekeeping. I dewormed with pyrantel today!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dixie, again

After exploring uncharted territory with Champ, I bribed Dixie into letting me on her back.

As usual, she started off behind the bit and very eager to rush away as fast as possible. While we zoomed around the field all panicky, I tried to come up with a Plan for today's ride.

I don't want to get into a fight with her about going slow. I try only pick fights that I can win, and I'm sure I could win a "slow down" fight with her - that's not the point. The point is that I value her willingness to charge forward. I just want to channel it into the direction I want to go, then one day into bending, then one day into a bit of collection. (You don't actually want to classically collect a gaited horse in an intermediate gait, from what I've read, but collection at a walk or canter is still a viable goal.)

I did want to get her to reach out for the bit again. She's a champion at evading it - either ducking completely behind it or trying to rush through a loose rein. Tuesday's ride was fantastic and I wanted something close to that again.

I wanted to stay balanced no matter what. I wanted to remember to breathe, to stay loose, and to follow whatever she was doing.

I managed to follow my meta plan pretty well. The only times I'd rate her speed were when she'd try to trot or canter - I'm not opposed to the trot or canter in principle, but I'd like to figure out and train specific cues for them rather than put up with them when she feels like it. I love Champ and wouldn't trade him for all the tea in China, but I don't really want another trotting Walking Horse that gaits when it suits her.

I managed to make and follow a bunch of mini-plans pretty well. We'd come to a place where we could turn any number of different directions. I'd remember to telegraph my intention to turn by looking in one direction, then shifting my weight in that direction, then cueing Dixie to turn. She and I had a few differences of opinion (this is polite talk for "I asked for a left turn and she sidepassed to the right at a rack and we played chicken about whether she'd actually run into that tree") but I kept her head pointed where I wanted to go, kept my weight and legs very clear about where I wanted to go, and that's where we went.

I got her to slow down to a nice stretchy walk a couple of times, but only briefly. I managed to follow that huge headnod with my hands pretty well, but she was kinda hyper and kept wanting to take off. In keeping with the meta plan, I'd let her speed up to a RW or a rack whenever she wanted.

We worked for maybe 45 minutes. Our final lap was a very nice rack around most of the property - we got near the gate to the northern paddock and she (finally!) asked to slow down, so I asked her to turn around and head south toward the truck at a rack for about a hundred feet, then asked her to slow down to a nice walk.

She was surprisingly blown after that. I urged her into a slow walk for a couple laps around the house and my truck, but she was blowing and sweaty and generally done for. I felt kinda bad about working her so hard - she's out of shape and it's my fault and I know it. But it's not like I asked her to work that hard.

In general, my training philosophy says to ignore undesirable behavior. I didn't ask for a fast rack for 45 minutes - I just ignored it when she gave it to me. I asked her to slow down every couple of minutes, either for a turn or for a full halt, and after the halts she chose to dart off again every time. Therefore, I ignored the uncued behavior. I didn't try to stop it but I didn't reward it. Hopefully she'll stop offering fast gaits all the time!

Anyway, she was fine, just more tired than my horses usually are after my softheared self rides them. I fed her in the roundpen, then when I let her out she followed me to my truck. I know she only loves me for the grain, but at least she wasn't so outdone with me that she just stalked off :)


Champ and I took T and Goblin on a cool new ride today!

During today's ramblings, I found a sharecropper's shack and took a few pictures of it. But the camera's in the car, and I am supremely lazy, so I made some maps (thank you, Google Earth!) of where I ride. Perhaps those of you playing at home can keep up with my vague country descriptions better now.

Here is a pretty little aerial photo of my horses' pasture. Keep that lake in mind; it'll help orient you later.

Click any of these pics for the bigger version if you'd like. In this next picture, the purple outline is the back field, but the fence is down there so the horses aren't roaming back there right now. The baby blue outline is the paddock - there's a gate between the main field and the paddock, and another gate which is usually open leading back to the rest of the fields. The red lines represent most of the trails - some of them are as nice as anything you'd find in a top-notch state park; some of them are actually just deer trails that I use.

The blue dot lake has some good fishing. The orange dot lake is where those redneck kids go skeet shooting - they set up the skeet machine at the north edge of the lake and shoot from the south end. There's a levee on the ESE side of the skeet lake, but a large tree has partially fallen on the levee and blocked that trail. If you want to circle the skeet lake, you have to go waaaay to the SE around the little hidden lake.


This map shows how I went wandering on Tuesday and found that deer hunting field. The purple line is my path out to the deer field; the orange dot is the tree stand. There's two houses visible in the picture - east of the deer stand and NNE of the stand. I rode close enough to the houses to realize they were in fact houses then turned around. Google Earth says it's about a 4 or 5 mile roundtrip.


Here's today's ride. T has been buggin me to go explore the big soybean field, so that's exactly what we did. The cut through the woods where our red line went west and east is a power line easement - we went west first, but there's an unbridged ditch. The ditch would've been easy enough to jump... except the ground was very spongy and none of us (horses included) know how to jump. We could have just galloped the horses at the lil baby ditch and tried to redneck foxhunt our way over it, but I actually do try to be a responsible adult when I'm out with the minor T. (Also, I don't want to get catapulted off of my horse onto my head in muddy water, but shhhhh - let's blame it on the kid being with me!)

After we were stymied to the west, we headed to the northernmost point you can see and investigated a mysterious white thing. It looked like a barrel; it was, in fact, a barrel. Then we headed back and detoured to the east down the power lines.

The sharecropper shack is in the woods, right off the power line clearing, about halfway down. Pictures tomorrow, I promise.

We rode all the way to the subdivision and snuck our horses all the way up to the paved road. Then we turned around and snuck right back out - we didn't want to talk to anybody, just explore a little!


After we got back, I rode Dixie. I'll write a separate post about that - perhaps one day I can look back on the Dixie posts and actually see some logical improvement in our work together!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Good ride, times two

Yesterday I played hooky from work and spent all afternoon with my horses. The promised ice storm never materialized, and the weather was great. All day, it was 32, cloudy, and no wind. Cold enough for the horses to be alive, but not so windy as to cause any human whining. ;)

Champ, Cersei, and I went exploring. He is such a lazy monster when he's bored, so I took us off the usual route down some deer trails and that woke him up. I'm usually fairly chatty when I'm riding alone - whistling turns in our route to the dog, discussing our progress with Champ - but for some reason I shut up and stayed quiet. (I get especially noisy if I think someone else is in the woods with me - paranoid is safe.) Nobody was out, except for a few deer. The slightly misty still air really muffled the normal sounds, and I felt like I was a million miles from civilization.

I love our little hills. I love the primeval oak/cottonwood/pecan forests, and the eerily quiet pine groves, and the new scrubby elm regrowth over what was a cotton field 50 years ago. I know everybody else has special places to ride too - the lush Pac NW, soggy green-and-red Hawaii, the frozen and well civilized NE, and of course ancient England with its millennia of people - but I love my little pocket of the world. It's like my horses - there's nothing objectively special about it, but it means everything to me. :3

Anyway, I found a deer meadow. I checked very carefully before I ventured out into it, and there's just one (perfectly placed) deer stand with nobody in it. And there's grass, fresh green grass! Champ felt well rewarded. I let him snack for a long time, then we cantered a bit.

I need to remember to ask Hardy how one rides a trot to canter. I mean, I'm posting, so I tend to keep kinda-posting when Champ switches gears. I'm not nearly as stiff as I used to be - I used to balance in the stirrups and cling in two point like a crazy little monkey - but it's hard for me to actually SIT DOWN and follow the canter.

I was just delighted when we headed home. It felt like a completely perfect day, but it was only about 2 pm. I decided to push my luck - and my perfect day - and ride Dixie.

We did a couple laps around the field while she got the zoomies out of her system, then I started thinking. What was I trying to accomplish? Was I trying to get her legged up, cardio-wise, or was I trying to (don't laugh!) school her? I know it sounds ridiculous for me to say it, but I decided to school her.

I know, all too well, how little I know. But I don't know anybody local who knows more about gaited horses and classical training. I don't want to send her off for training and have her come back trotting and cantering, even if she'd come back standing like a rock for me to mount and steering perfectly. And she gaits, which is all gaited horse people care about. (Steering is for wusses!) And I suppose I could dither around for another year, trying to learn more and become a better rider, afraid to ride my best horse for fear I'll mess her head up worse. But really? That's what I did for the first year I had her. She's unwound, mentally, quite a bit, and her feet have healed and grown out normally, and that's about it.

So we schooled. I decided I'd work on her steering, work on rating her speed, and work on my hands and her acceptance of the bit. I've gotten an excellent woah on her - when I let out a big sigh and sit back, she'll usually stop or at least half-halt. My hands were finally really good. She actually stayed calmer and happier when I kept contact on her mouth and kept my leg aids active. I did the same thing I'd done with Val - deliberately did not look at her head, or the reins, or my hands, and tried to feel the reins and follow her head.

I am pleased to report that we finished the ride calmer than when we started. She wasn't worn out, and she was listening to me and soft and responsive. We have thousands of miles left to go on our journey - her training is more gaps than not - but that was a good ride.

Cersei, by the way, fell asleep while eating dinner. I feed her raw, and when she's super-tired like that is the only time I regret it. Poor girl, ran nonstop for 4 hours and then has to actually crunch her dinner apart! I predict she'll sleep all day today then be rarin' to go again by tonight.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Belated weekend update

I felt kinda guilty posting this last night, because it was just such a lovely day yesterday. The northeast is buried in ice, Hawaii is buried in mud, and it was 60 here.

But today it's hovered near freezing and we could possibly have up to an inch of ice overnight. Aaaaand as a direct result, our schools all let out at noon today. (Please remember to breathe in between bouts of hysterical laughter, Northeasters.)

Anyway. Yesterday.

I had another frustrating ride on Valentine. Progress is slow with me getting all my parts coordinated, but I am getting there.

I did decide to entirely stop looking at my reins, even when Hardy mentioned them - I realized that whenever he'd say, for instance, "outside rein!" I'd look down. I don't need to see it wiggling to know it's loose. I really need to feel it wiggling, or better yet feel the lack of contact and do something about it on my own.

I also had this happen a few times:
Decide to trot.
Squeeze for trot.
Nothing happens so squeeze again and suddenly, Val throws her head up and inside and pins her ears.

Hardy said I was yanking, and I protested mightily that I was not in fact yanking, and then I realized that perhaps I was tensing up when Val ignored my first cue. Hrmm.

She's fun, but she's really frustrating. You must give the cues perfectly or she either ignores you or pins her ears and gets angry.

After that lesson - which didn't feel like a stellar advancement of my skills, but I know I'm just on one of those plateaus and one day soon it'll come together again - I went trail riding.

With James!

Yay for James!

K and T were out there - T wanted to go with us, and K just wanted to take a nap but she was quite eager for one of us to ride Poppy. I really wanted to ride Dixie, so I stuck fearless James on Poppy, K rode her bastard Goblin, and we headed out.

Dixie and I led the way, and she was completely relaxed and fearless and swingy. Such a great horse. Poppy was a bit stumbly, but he was very well mannered for James. And T was really alert with Goblin, so he didn't try to bite/kick any other horses, yay.

It was a short ride, just over an hour, but that's a very long ride for T. And a fairly long ride for Poppy! He's not out of shape, but he's not muscled up like he could be (I'm looking at Klein here!) After we got back, we made K ride Poppy. Poppy was an angel for her, cause he was a) a little tired and b) in the habit of listening to his rider. Then we stuck T on Poppy and he did well for her too. Then I let James ride Dixie, and she gaited beautifully for him.

Next weekend I'm gonna go up to the old barn and go riding with James again. Now those are some technical trails! I will get pix for those (i.e. all) of you who have not slogged through a full year of my blathering, so you can see what I think a "hard" trail is. Anyway, we're going to try to alternate visiting each other. My new trails are beautiful; his are longer and tougher.

Today we purchased Guitar Hero World Tour. I took a break from ROCKING to post this, and I'm off to ROCK again!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


... Like that Jeopardy category.

It was a truly lovely day. Kinda cold when I woke up, so I waited til about 11 to head out for my ride. I wanted to ride Dixie, but I was a good girl and rode Champ and thought dressage-y thoughts and tried to keep my elbows unlocked.

Champ was a dick. He wanted to laze about, thankyouvermuch, not trot around the woods. He expressed his displeasure by deciding that the imaginary wolves were out to get him, and got all perky and half-spooky on the trails. He actually tried to bolt at one point and I had to holler at him to slow his roll. After that, he was a fairly good horse and gaited back home for me.

We got near the gate and Bill, the husband barn owner, was headed out on foot. I turned Champ around and we walked with him. Champ's mood immediately soured, of course. I ignored him. Apparently Bill had found a full roll of barbed wire on the side of the road a while back and had stashed it in a rut along one of the trails, in the hopes that a four-wheeler would hit it and blow out a tire. (We are so classy - but the four-wheeler dudes aren't supposed to be back there, and they know it!) Now he wanted to use it to refence one of the back paddocks, so he was hiking out to pick it up.

We saw some deer tracks, and I updated Bill on where I'd seen the deer this week. We saw a huge flock of turkey, too!

After that, I drove up to the old barn and paid some more on Dixie and visited with everybody. And the big news:

James is coming riding with me tomorrow!

James is my best riding buddy from the old barn. I've ridden over a thousand miles with him, as often and as far as we rode at the old barn. I told him to bring a saddle and come ride with me tomorrow, and next weekend I'll come up and ride with him, and we'll swap up like that.

He has two horses now! He ended up buying SSB - she has a registered name, but her call name is SSB, short for Spotted Saddle Bitch. She deserves that name too! Makes Dixie look like a laidback plow mare. Anyway, she's black and white, not as well bred as Dixie apparently, tends to pace, and had a wee bit of a rearing problem when James started working with her a year ago. He'll ride the paceyness out of her, and he's already won the battle of wills that was causing the rearing.

I caught up on a bit of the drama at the old barn. Everybody wanted to know about how I'm doing, of course, and that made me realize a few things.

People are really impressed and really proud of me for becoming a lawyer (even though it's in name only at the moment!) And everybody who has a job is very grateful to have a job, and nobody is hiring for anything, and perhaps I'm not such a failure for not having a lawyer job. Sigh.

I think I'll end up doing this my own way, like I've done everything else. I always thought that at some point I'd magically get a Career, like after I graduated and passed the bar I'd get hired at a small firm and make a salary and get a 401k and stuff. It doesn't seem like it's gonna happen that way.

Very few people in my family, or their friends, have Careers with Salaries. I know, intellectually, that most Americans have stable jobs and get some fixed amount of money every month, but that's never how it's been in my life experience. I've been with Graham for almost 9 years now, and I'm still not entirely used to the fact that he makes the exact same amount of money every month. It's so odd to me.

Everybody I know, except Graham, just scraps along. That's what life is - sometimes there's money, sometimes there's not. You work when it's available. If you're sick you probably don't get paid, and you only go to the doctor for stitches. Some weeks you eat a lot of beans, some weeks you bring home steaks. :)

Anyway, it doesn't look like a Career is going to magically appear in this economy, no matter how many resumes I send out. I think I'll just get some business cards printed up, so I can hand them out when people ask, and I'll pick up clients as I can. C'est la vie!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Her name is Jabber because she talks a lot. Yes, I have three cats now, and yes, that's my no-seriously-i-mean-it hard limit for cats. I had two and that was fine, but then I drunkenly agreed to take a kitten from a softhearted friend who let a pregnant stray in the house. Then, later, when I could have pretended to not remember this bargain... I reaffirmed it.

Long story short, meet Jabber. She is very cute and much nicer than the other two.


The ugly plaid blanket was keeping my legs warm - you can see this very laptop to the right of her head. (Macs rule, Windows drool. Or something.)


Monday I took her off to the vet, bright and early, for her spay. The two boys were very upset that she'd disappeared - the slightly retarded tuxie was especially yowly, and the longhaired standoffish jerk was affectionate. Monday afternoon I went and picked up Jabber, then got stuck in the world's worst traffic jam, then stopped at Petco for some Solid Gold wet food for her and Chic-Fil-A cause it was Funder's dinnertime - long story slightly shorter, Jabber was gone from the home for ALMOST 14 HOURS.

When I walked in with her in the carrier, the longhaired one freaked out and started hissing. He's been hissing at her ever since. He has no idea who she is or why she's in his house.

Jabber, of course, knows exactly who she is and who the boys are, and she is supremely unimpressed by the hissing.

Cats are weird, yall.

Icky, icky, icky.

That's our weather. It was cold Monday (and I was busy getting the kitten spayed), then Tuesday we got two inches of rain and mid-50s weather. Today turned off cold and still drizzly and muddy - it was 36 and raining on me in the field today.

But I had to go. Cersei was spazzing. I took off a little early from work, headed home and grabbed her, and headed out to the field. I wore my muck boots and coveralls, so I was fairly well insulated.

Champ tried to bully me - he pinned his ears and shoved at me to try for extra grain - so I whopped him with the dressage crop. He popped his ears up, like "oh sorry!" then spun around, ears back, to bully the next horse he ran across. That happened to be Silky. She bolted away into the gloom, with Champ hot on her heels teeth bared.

That left me with Dixie, who remained quite polite while she begged. Ears up, very conscious of my body space. Well, you only live once, so I saddled her up and walked off to the trails.

I was going to do my clever trick again - walk her through the gate, shut the gate, then mount - but I remembered too late that I can barely scramble on 2-inch-shorter Champ with my stupid coveralls on. So I could either swap the coveralls for a coat or just walk the damn horse around for a while. I walked the damn horse.

We went on what I'd consider a short trail ride, over technically easy but very sloshy muddy trails. I saw deer tracks, then later on saw a white tail bounding away, then on the way back saw a big deer. Yay for deer!

Walking Dixie was probably for the best anyway. She was on high alert. I don't mind her being a psycho - it's half the reason I think she's so much fun - but not on bad footing, not where she might slip and hurt herself or me.

By the time we got back it was almost dark and Cersei was content. When I haven't given her enough exercise, she stands up in the truck on the way home, like "That was fun! Where are we going next!!" But when she's tired, she curls up and snoozes on the 5 minute drive home. :3

Hey, I don't think I ever posted pics of the new kitten. Did I? Anyway, I have new pics! Cat post incoming.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A quickie, before I forget all this

After today's lesson, I came home and started cooking (and drinking). Here is the summary of my super-exciting Sunday:

Someone was on my fat lesson pony when I got to the barn. Not just someone, but someone good, cause Val was jumping! I headed down to the outdoor to watch the lesson - I figured I'd be riding Val anyway, cause it's not like I've ever made her sweat, and I wanted to see this New Person.

I recognized D (I think that's her initial?? I am horrible with names) taking pictures of Hardy and the Mystery Rider, so I figured the rider was D's friend. The Friend was a) fearless, i.e. an experienced jumper, b) moneyed, cause she had a fairly nice custom jumping saddle + fleece pad, and c) nice, because she walked by me at one point and I asked if she minded me watching, and she didn't.

It was pretty cool watching her jump. She was waaay better than any students I've seen at the barn, but also far far from perfect. When she was on a long trot approach, her hands were, uh, good at following Val? Independent? But when she'd start thinking about the jump, her elbows would lock up. And her leg aids, her "keep trotting" squeezes, were pretty heels-in toes-out. Not perfect, but very cool for me to watch. And please, mystery rider, if you ever find my blog, don't think I'm hating on you. Nobody rides perfectly, and it was a real treat for me to watch you sail over fences (and take a few rails) yet still see the flaws in your riding!

After her session, we all headed up to give Val a few minutes off and talk around the chiminea. She was in fact D's friend, come to visit from Ocala, where she owns and competes three TBs at second level. Overall impression: very nice moneyed person who has been riding, and I mean Riding, for a long time. Not a DQ - or at least not an overbearing one! I hope she comes back to work with Hardy; I'd love to watch her again.

My lesson's two big takeaway moments:

I do not plan ahead, at all. I really need to plan a maneuver and follow through. I'll think "Ok, we will walk to the end of the arena, then turn left and walk over the trot poles" but Val will balk at the left turn so we'll stagger on toward the gate and I'll decide on the spur of the moment to turn right and she gets annoyed. Now that I've realized I'm doing that - and realized how important it is to prepare for a movement several strides before I cue for it - I will do better.

Dressage != trail riding. I spent the whole hour trying to curve Val around to trot over the four cavalletti. Sometimes we'd end up at the fence, staring woefully out of the arena at the frolicking free horses. Sometimes we'd turn too wide and walk by them. Sometimes we'd turn and keep turning and go over one or two poles at a diagonal. My great crescendo of the hour sputtered to a halt, almost literally: I planned to trot to the end of the arena, curve right then S-curve back to the left and TROT over the damn poles. We took off to the end of the arena, then I masterfully stayed balanced and slowed down to a more sedate trot, curved beautifully left, straightened, curved perfectly right, straightened, and made the poles. I popped up into two-point and dropped my reins, and Val screeched to a halt, stared at the menacing 4x4s, and stepped daintily over them.

I busted up laughing and we walked over to Hardy. "What did I doooooo there?!"

(Imagine an amused German accent here) "Well, you dropped contact and quit giving her leg aids."

My mouth dropped open. "Oh MAH GAWD I did! I totally threw my reins away so she could have her head and I was so busy balancing up there in two point that I didn't have time to actually squeeze."


"So she felt like I had totally checked out, right? Like I'd abandoned her completely and could possibly fall off at any second?"


"Right. I'll work on that."

Hardy wants to head back to the round pen next week, so I don't have so much room to gallivant around and change my mind about what to do. I can just stay balanced, keep my aids consistent, and trot til my thighs scream and I cry for mercy. I know what's he's planning. I must either trot Champ several times this week or go explore the fitness room at the apartment complex. :(

I stopped at the field and said hi to my evil mules, then headed home for an afternoon of cooking (and drinking). I made confit-duck-fat pie crust dough, then portioned it out into little pot pie pans. Blind baked two of them and filled them with some random goodies from the fridge - a crumbled slice of bacon, some shredded domestic prosciutto, frozen-defrosted spinach and green beans, and egg. I had one for dinner (A+++ would bake again) and I'll take the other for lunch tomorrow. I also made another batch of normal pie pastry, which I'll roll out tomorrow or Tuesday for an apple pie for somebody's Christmas present. AND I thawed and poached some of my woefully small bass, then flaked off all the good meat and stuck it in the fridge. I think I'll try some kind of bizarre fish quiche with the other tartlettes. I am bored with these fish taking up all my freezer space and I don't want fried fish and I don't know what else to do with them!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It only comes once a year!

I love my horse. And despite all of his evil ways toward other living things, he loves me. You know how I know this? Because he let me do THIS to him:

Christmas '08 off side

That's love, folks. He let me stencil him with fake snow, hang fake flowers and LEDs around his neck, clip ribbons in his hair, and even hang junk all over his saddle.

Lookit the BOWS on his bridle! He was stunning. My legs looked nice too. Also I look fat but whatever.
Me on Champ

Here's a group shot of most of the other horses you've heard about. Left to right is T on Goblin, then P on the lesson Arab Clipper, R on the fat lesson pony Valentine, my instructor Hardy on his buckskin QH Cisco, and, uh, somebody, on a Rocky Mountain Horse. I am bad with names!

Group shot

Last one - the barn owner on her big warmblood Sylvan, and me again. Do I look like I was having fun? Cause I had a blast!

PK on Sylvan, me on Champ

I am completely exhausted. Champ is HARD to ride in parades - he's on high alert, and I'm not sure if he's freaked out by the crowds or just angry that he's losing the "race." Because there are other horses in front of him, therefore it's a race, therefore he really wants to pass them. It was constant half-halts, full halts, and talking to him for two straight hours. He did a beautiful animated flat walk the whole time though, and that's really unusual for him.

Champ is such a goofy mofo. He wants to GO, but I want him to please stay with my group and please listen to me k thx? So I am forced to pick up the reins and take up some contact. This pisses him off and he's constantly trying to snatch the reins back out of my hands and sticking his tongue out and yawning with that exaggerated jaw wiggle. Just so I know that I am killing him, absolutely slaying him with my relentless iron grasp. (And when I say "relentless iron grasp"? I mean like 2" shorter than in the picture of Champ and Sylvan. That's TOO TIGHT for Champ, who is a picky damn horse.) And I think I've mentioned it before, but yes, that's the best bit for him. He truly deeply hates bitless getups and he, like Dixie, just gets really confused and canters through a snaffle.

Anyway, the two crazy brothers on the racking horses were back. They're local speed racking champions who have a pale palomino and a black racking horse. For parades they put OVERALLS on the horses' front legs and over their necks. The horses, who look like they're about to completely flip out at any moment, also rear on command. These dudes are the very definition of crazy country boys. I love watching them. From a distance.

I'm going to bed. Every muscle in my body is a little bit tired and sore.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why I love gaited horses

(Yeah, yeah, ANOTHER post. This is like 7 in two days, I know.)

Yesterday I did not take the Cersei with me, because I was going to ride Champ on the roads. Her recall is very good but I'm not willing to risk that, no way no how. Today Cersei was pretty wound up, so we kinda had to go ride.

It was Dixie's turn, so I steeled myself for possible death and headed out. Fate smiled on me and K and her daughter T were out there. YAY! T took her horse Goblin, the lazy-ass halter bred QH. We whistled up the dogs and headed out.

I took the "work smarter not harder" method of mounting Dixie. I walked her through the gate to the trails, shut the gate, let her face the gate, and got on. She sure didn't want to walk anywhere except back through the gate, so she didn't try to take off.

We had a nice ride. I took T on the "easy" part of two different trails, then down a medium difficulty slope. Not too steep, but fairly rutted and eroded, so you needed to switch sides twice on the way down. I told her to lean back, don't let the horse rush but give him his head, and TRUST HIM. She did good and wanted more, but we needed to head back. I promised lots more of the same in the future!

Why I love gaited horses: On one of the straight flat sections of trail, T asked if we could go faster. I squeezed and kissed and Dixie took off from a dog walk through a running walk (briefly) to a slow/medium rack. Goblin had to canter to keep up. Muahahah!

Dixie hates everything except me - kept pinning her ears and threatening to stomp the dogs, and pinned her ears a few times at Goblin. I had T stay fairly far back out of kick range and all was well til we cantered the short trail through the woods on the way home. I was letting Dixie rack along, and Goblin cantered fast enough to get up behind her and try to bite her ass! So T pulled him to the side and let him gallop past us and HE KICKED AT HER HEAD ON THE WAY PAST. It was seriously not cool. His foot was as high as her head and about six inches to the side.

I'm not entirely sure what to do about that, other than continuing to be very very aware of their spacing and body language. Any ideas?

Anyway, my new improved seat is helping Dixie too. She carried her head a little lower and spent most of the time in that crazy big swingy walk. (Honestly? It was easier to sit her tense prancing walk! I'm not going back to a chair seat to make it easier to ride her, but MAN. She's SWINGY.)

Another thing I've noticed is that when she gets upset she goes seriously behind the bit. Normally, when she's calm, she doesn't exactly reach out for the bit, but she'll accept soft contact. But when she gets nervous she tucks her chin to her neck and tries to evade the bit for all she's worth. Poor girl. Why the hell do people start baby walking horses in double twisted wire curb bits? WHY GOD WHY? I'm just gonna keep riding her and NOT yanking or hanging on her face and hopefully the evasion will fade away.

It was a lovely afternoon to ride. Yesterday's high was about 50, and when I rode Champ it was in the 40s and I enjoyed those new gloves. Today when I went out it was in the low 60s and I didn't even wear my (bright orange) jacket. Just my skeet hat.

Here's some pics of me on Champ from yesterday. Yes, I'm leaning forward, because we were standing on my parents' slanted driveway. Other than the leaning-forward-ness I'm REALLY happy with how my legs look!
E and Champ 4

E and Champ 1


I am a dainty Southerner with dainty little hands that get cold easily. I've always ridden in cheap unlined leather gloves - usually something like this. They're a damn sight better than NO gloves, and they're leather so I get good grip on my reins, but they leave something to be desired as riding gloves.

Also I'd always end up using them as riding-and-work gloves. Every pair of leather gloves I own has some holes in the fingertip and funk embedded in the leather. Roofing tar, paint stripper, dirt, etc.

So I wanted some riding only gloves. I spent a couple of days looking at the different gloves in random stores, but nothing really struck my fancy til I stopped at Cowboy Corner. I got so distracted drooling over the Tucker saddles that I almost forgot about gloves, but I eventually remembered what I was there for. I found these Heritage Performance Riding Gloves and I love them so far!

They come in numbered sizes (instead of that S-M-L-XL nonsense) so the pair I bought actually FIT. And the "rein cut" thing is pretty brilliant - between the ring and pinky fingers, the seams are moved. They're still Thinsulated gloves, so you can't feel the reins as well, but you can definitely feel them better without the seams in the way.

Anyway, so far I love these gloves. If they fall apart or something, I'll post again, but for now I would recommend them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Look who's back!


So the Poppy Training Saga Update:

I've gotten to be friends with K, who's buying Poppy. In October (IIRC?) she sent him over to the main barn to have him trained by the barn owner. The BO worked with him for one day then said he was a little off in one of his back legs? K agreed. Probably a stifle injury from getting kicked in the field. Poppy went on a week of stall rest. That turned into two weeks. Then they decided it wasn't stifle injury and it was probably something chiropractic. The chiropractor was coming in to town Real Soon Now. Real Soon Now turned into the weekend before Thanksgiving, then the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving, then, finally, Monday.

Apparently, the chiro has come and fixed Poppy.

Poppy is not a stall queen. Poppy, in fact, HATES being in stalls. He spent a month straight in a (very nice, clean, well appointed) stall and he got super pissy and super depressed. He wouldn't look at K, he wouldn't walk nice for her or the BO, he wouldn't look at me. Sad boy. So K had him moved back to the field as soon as he was pronounced well.

I feel bad for K. She's buying Goblin, the horse she's leasing for her daughter, for Christmas. Her hours at work have gotten cut (yay economy!) and she can't really afford to buy Goblin AND get Poppy trained so he's back being a hayburner.

I kinda sympathize with the BO, too. She obviously wants to do right by the horses in her care. There aren't any reputable equine chiros based out of Memphis, so she waited for her preferred guy to come back through town.

Mainly I'm a little bummed that Poppy isn't being utilized any more than he was with me. I'll probably end up riding him, if K wants me to. He's a big sweet lazy boy :)

(And I would take him back, if she asked - but she adores him and I hope she doesn't feel like that's necessary.)

I did 3 miles, round trip, on Champ today. Road work for a change of scenery, plus I think light work on asphalt is good for their hooves.

Duck (comma) dog

I broke into the confit for lunch. I had a duck leg, reheated til the skin was crispy and served over risotto. I have no plating or food photography skills whatsoever, so just pretend it looked like this, but over risotto instead of veggies. It tasted heavenly.

This morning, I took Cersei to the vet for her heartworm blood test and rabies shot.

She weighs seventy-one pounds.

I am really having a hard time with this. I've had her for just over one year. Intellectually, I know she's grown up, but I am still emotionally sure that she's a small dog. Well, not a small-yappy-dog, but a small Lab. I can still remember the first time I picked her up, little squirmy blue-eyed blonde puppy. She couldn't have weighed 10 lbs.

Here she is, exactly one year ago:

You can see part of her first collar in that picture. IME, the earlier you put a collar on a dog the easier it is for the dog to get used to it, so I got her a collar the night I got her. It was a CAT COLLAR from Walmart. I couldn't resist a sparkly blue-and-silver collar with a bell. The bell was really useful; if she went jingling off behind the furniture she was probably looking for a good corner to pee in.

I'd just put my old Lab to sleep. Literally, just; I think I'd buried Linux the day before. I still had a truly ADHD Lab mix named Jaime, and I did not want another dog, especially not another Lab. Especially not another Lab puppy! But my friend wanted me to go with her to drop something off with some rednecks we knew from the barn. They lived in a trailer park on the highway, five kids and a constantly rotating assortment of cats, dogs, rabbits, fish, horses, etc. Lately the dogs had been dying cause one of the puppies had parvo, but nobody had the money for them vaccines and there's always another dog comin along from somewhere.

So we went to see the rednecks, and one of the kids came running up to me holding an exhausted-looking little yellow puppy. "LOOK WHAT I GOT!" he yelled.

My broken heart melted a little. "Can I hold her?"

He handed the puppy over. She didn't squirm or fuss at all; she just looked at me and sighed and melted into sleep in my arms.

I looked at his momma. I looked at the puppy. I knew I was about to say something stupid, but the puppy squirmed a bit to get more comfortable in my arms and I looked back up at the momma and said "You know, if you decide you don't want another puppy... I could take her."

The momma was delighted. "Take her, take her! God knows I don't need another puppy." We chatted for a while and I got the backstory on the puppy - the family had gone to a horse show in Tipton County the night before, and some woman there tried to give her FIVE puppies, one for each kid. She'd held the line at one puppy, and the kids picked out the one with the liver nose and pale eyeliner. I complimented the kids on choosing a beautiful puppy, promised that they could play with her any time they wanted at the barn, and walked out the door with a "what the fuck have I done" feeling.

I got her a collar that night. Her name, of course, was Cersei. Jaime and Cersei are evil blonde twins in George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series.

She was so tiny. How could a tiny puppy like that have grown up to be 71 pounds of muscle?

She's a fantastic buddy. Best possible dog. Here's to about 15 more wonderful years with the world's best dog!