Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

It's been hotter and dryer than usual for at least a month now and the song Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Noel Coward has been going through my head a lot.  I haven't been good about remembering to water my garden frequently so the sunflowers aren't doing as well as I think they otherwise would and I lost some spinach.  Luckily, the pumpkins are doing great and have so far (knock on wood) not succumbed to powdery mildew this year.  Which is a huge accomplishment for me!  Third year growing them here and this is the first one where powdery mildew did not take over.  I had been wondering if it was because it was so uncharacteristically warm and dry but the other day my next door neighbor asked why my pumpkins were doing great and his squash had been destroyed already by powdery mildew.  So yay! The horticultural oil spray mix actually did work as a preventative!  A couple people told me it wouldn't but I'm happy to say it did.

We watched an excellent movie last night that my dad recommended.  I expected when it started to not be interested but it turned out to be surprisingly good.  I want to watch it again just to listen to the music.  I need to get the piano sheet music for some of it because I was inspired to learn some of the pieces.  Something I might actually have time to do over the next couple weeks.

I'm done with working at pony camp for a couple weeks which means I can get out to ride my horse in the morning before it gets too hot.  She's doing well despite not being ridden very much the last couple weeks.  By the time I get off work at pony camp and get to the barn it's usually in the upper-80's which means the arena is in the upper 90's and it's just too hot everywhere to ride.  I finally had time to have a lesson on Friday afternoon (and it wasn't terribly hot).  It was too hot to wear my eventing/ninja turtle vest but I'm not quite as scared to not wear it now because for one my back and sacrum should be fully healed by now and two, there is new footing in the arena so it's cushier.  It's not professional footing by any mean, it's just mulch that's free from a tree cutting company, but I'll take that any day over nothing at all.  It will break down to dirt and hopefully not get too packed down.  So, I decided to overcome my fear for sake of not making myself sick from getting overheated.

I wasn't feeling very well though from sinus problems and (ahem) that peri-menopause crap (aaargh) so we started out stopping and starting because it wasn't too much exertion for me.  Also good for poor Maiden when it's hot out.   After the second stop Trainer K. asked "What are you doing with your legs when you stop?" and I said, "Nothing? I thought was supposed to use my seat to stop and relax my legs?" and she said she wanted me to apply some leg when I ask for a stop which of course made me worried and I asked, "Was I always supposed to be doing that? How come I did not know that?" and she explained that I just hadn't been ready to learn it and Maiden hadn't been ready to learn it yet.  Apparently, when we stop now I'm supposed to apply a little bit of leg aid to help her stop so that she is already squared up and ready to walk again, so that as soon as I let up on my seat she will walk forward.  I was pretty excited about this new development because it is totally new to me and although it sounds great in my head it's hard to do with my body.

The other thing we worked on which is a lot harder than it sounds is my timing for transitions.  Our goal with Maiden right now since she's working on training level and strengthening her back, is to keep her "long and low" where she is stretching her neck and most importantly engaging her core and back and getting her propulsion from her hindquarters.  So, what I had been doing (which is one of those intuitive things one does when they don't know better - like when a horse goes fast and one thinks it is a good idea to lean forward in the fetal position) - anyway, what I'd been doing was waiting until Maiden had her neck stretched and had engaged her back and then I ask for a transition from walk to trot, but then what happens is that her head pops back up as soon as she starts to trot, then she has to go through the stretching and such all over again to engage her back to trot.  But if I ask her as she is stretching down there's more of a chance she will make the transition while engaging her core/back which is what we want.  Sounds easy, huh?  Ask her to stretch, as soon as she starts to ask her trot - much easier said than done!  We tried it over and over again until I thought poor Maiden's head was going to explode and I never did achieve it.  But I'm pretty excited to have something new to work on.

I went to a dressage show with Trainer K. and a couple of our other friends yesterday.  I spent a lot of time staring at horses and when someone would mention a saddle of piece of clothing I would find myself saying "What? They have a two-toned saddle?" because I was so busy watching the horse's movements.  I wanted to ask Trainer K. a million questions like "Are they supposed to be doing that?" but there were usually too many people around and it is bad for another trainer to be pointing out movement/training flaws in another person's horse.  I also wanted to ask about the riding but had few opportunities.  One of our friends and I did get chastised for muttering too much about a woman's hands that were see-sawing a lot (pulling one then the other on the reins to force the horse to tuck their chin into their chest because it hurts so much they are trying to escape the bit) and we were reminded that she might have friends sitting near us.  It's a good point.  I would be very upset if someone put down Trainer K's or one of her students riding within my earshot.

So, I didn't get as much feedback as I would've liked but I got to watch a lot of horse movements.  What was cool was that there were plenty of upper level tests (ie: FEI level or Prix St. George, Intermeidary 1 through 3 and Grand Prix tests) and that was OK for me to ask about what they were doing - half passes, piaffe, collected canter, medium canter, etc. and what the differences are between the different types of trots and canters and actually getting to watch the horses movements during those different moves.

It was a very pleasant day up until we were packing up to come home (an hour drive) and got a call from the barn that one of our friend's horse had a bad colic and she might need a ride to Pilchuck our local horse hospital.  We got back to the barn and her horse had been heavily medicated by the vet so that he wasn't as uncomfortable, and Trainer K whisked them off to Pilchuck.  I stayed and helped another boarder clean stalls so that Trainer K. wouldn't have to come back and do it herself (that was fun - cleaning stalls in a dress with a clunky necklace that all the horses had to gnaw on because they were sure it was a bunch of tasty berries wrapped around my neck).  Last I heard the horse had gone into surgery and that's all I know.  I'm thinking hopeful thoughts for them though!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rushing by

It's hard to believe that it's already late July.  After this week I only have one more week of pony camp to help with and that summer job will be over already.   And I'm already more than half-way through my distance learning course for equine massage and have my lodging arrangements and everything all set up for the week long practical in October.  My daughter is working pony camp with me this week and the last week of this particular class in August, plus she has her own camps to go to so after that she and I will have two weeks off with no camps/work.  Then school starts again.  Time just feels like it is rushing by.

I have a new person in my list of horse people I think are really neat.  Scott Hassler.  He wrote a really interesting article for Dressage Today recently about helping your horse be more supple and building their confidence.  I like this quote:  "Forcing, overtraining or expecting too much too fast leads to injury or rebellion." Very simple, but very to the point.   A couple weeks ago when we came back from the Buck Brannaman clinic my dad asked my husband (the non-horse person) what he learned and he said "Wait.  That's what I heard most the whole weekend is to wait.  It can't be rushed and you have to be patient."  That's not something that is very common in our society and it's something I struggle with too.  My husband's expression for us is "I'm evolution, she's revolution."

I got to pretend to be a farrier last week which by the way sucked!  Maiden's feet are very weak as it is and it's been so dry and her feet have actually gotten so dry (very rare in this part of the country) that her hoof walls were starting to chip off and it was getting worse as her feet got longer.  It had only been five weeks so I hadn't made a farrier appointment and I'm a bit in between farriers at the moment because the one who's best with problem feet seems to not want to work with me because last time I practically stalked him and he never did call me back (which is odd because Maiden is perfectly good for the farrier).

Anyway, I went to Trainer K. and said "Can you come look at Maiden's feet ..." and she said "I don't need to. They are horrible!"  So, she got out her rasp and showed me how to file them down until I can get a farrier out there.  Luckily,  Maiden's old owner has a stand built for putting the horse's foot on while you're working on them and she leaves it out so I borrowed that and it was easier than trying to hold it up myself (not sure I could've pulled that off).  As it was, I watched Trainer K. do one front foot, then she showed me how to put the back foot on the stand and then she left to go do her work and I literally thought (something I try never to think) "This is too hard. I can't do it!" And the thought even had a whiny tone to it in my head.  But since I don't like it when people do that without even trying I took a deep breath and gave it a try.

And it WAS really hard!  Good lord.  The first thing I said when I got Maiden's foot up on the stand and was standing on two sides of it to hold it down and was practically on top of her leg, envisioning my painful demise if she decided to try and rear in the cross ties was "I am NEVER doing this on anyone else's horse but my own! Never!"   But I did it.  I did the rest of the three legs and it was super hard work and I was literally pouring sweat from the top of my head down to my toes, but I did it!  And her feet look better.  But I need someone who really specializes in problem feet to help me figure out what to do for her.  Trainer K. says put shoes back on and I'm all for that, but I'm also worried about how her hoof walls are cracking and peeling so easily and that seems bad.  I've got her on hoof supplements and we've used Venice turpentine on her feet but they are still a mess.  I definitely need professional help on this one.  Now if we can just get the really good at problem feet farrier to actually call me back.

I've only had the chance to ride twice in the last two weeks because I've been so busy and that kind of sucks.  I've had time to go out during the hottest part of the afternoon but it's been too hot to ride and too hot for Maiden to work too hard so I've just lunged her and done a bit of ground work with her.  I noticed on Sunday my mood was exuberant for the whole day after getting to ride again.  And we had a good ride although she was on edge and wanting to spook - although she didn't.  We managed to communicate well enough and keep her re-directed enough that she didn't actually spook.  But she was tense for some reason and very hyper-alert.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

House full of pets ...

It's good to be home to our house full of pets.  It was also good to get out and see Maiden after a weekend of not seeing her but being around so many other horses.  My leasee had an evening lesson but I had to go out and meet with her anyway because we need to officially sign a lease contract.  So, I did get to ride for a few minutes.  Not to mention get lots of snuggles and pets in.

I did quickly learn why you don't ride horses wearing dark green cotton cargo pants from Old Navy.  Let's just say chafing ... sigh.  I was fine until doing the posting trot.  Maiden was being very nice, a little too nice in fact because when a girl taking a lesson on Misty was having trouble steering (or just didn't realize Maiden can't stand Misty) and Misty came up really close to Maiden (so I moved her to the side quickly) Maiden didn't even pin her ears.  Then she did her little "I'm in heat" peeing and we realized that she thought Misty was looking pretty hot there as the little butch dyke Quarterhorse that she is.  Sigh.

I tried what I had gleened was the exercise they were doing in the clinic yesterday afternoon.  I wasn't paying enough attention to the instructions as I should have but it seemed like they were having the horse bend, then turn.  The riders who stood out to me where the ones that would pull the horses head off to the side and yank, while kicking really hard.  That made me sad and didn't seem at all like what Buck was instructing.  I did notice he said a lot of "soft" "patient" "wait" type instructions.  Anyway, I tried it with Maiden and I was extremely impressed with her!  I give credit to the training that Trainer K. has done with her.  And she's a smart, sweet horse!

Anyway, at first she couldn't figure out why I was pulling on one rein, but I was very gentle and light with her and within a few minutes she bent and stretched her neck around to the side then with just the slightest nudge of my ankle she gracefully turned.  I was so proud of her!  We did the other side and this time she did it even more smoothly because she had figured out what I was asking her.  My leasee came into the arena and said, "Hey - that's stuff we did in Western classes." And I said that it was basically a Western clinic so that made sense.  I have to admit that I found myself thinking "Wow, with a horse like Maiden I could've fooled everyone into thinking I knew what I was doing had I been at the clinic with her this year!".  She really is one of those horses that makes the rider look good (when you're communicating with her well which I don't understand why that is so hard for some people because she's such a sweetheart).

I looked up copyright laws and was disappointed to see that it is very high risk to use any form of song lyric without permission because songs are so short.  So, I either have to contact Alexi Murdoch and ask him if I can use a couple lines from one of his songs for dialogue and for a quote at the beginning of my book, or change the dialogue.  I'd rather the former because it's such a 15-year old thing to do to be quoting songs to express her feelings but I'm wondering what the chances are I'll be able to track him or his management down to ask.  I am also dubious about using a Buck Brannaman quote because the copyright fair use laws are so vague.  And I don't want to piss anyone off and have to deal with that drama and fall-out.  Of course that's assuming I ever try to get these books published.

My mom brought up again the other day how I should rewrite my first novel (which I was just going to link here but then I realized this would no longer be anonymous blog if I did that - damn!).  Anyway, my mom suggested again I rewrite that novel (about demons and succubus killing grunge-era rock stars) to be young adult appropriate and cashing in the Twighlight crowd.  But I told her that would be too hard because if you took out all the sex scenes and profanity the whole novel would only be two pages long.  Ok, that's an exaggeration, but it is true that as the my old co-worker the pastor's wife once said "If you took out all the F-words it would be significantly shorter".

Oh what to do with all these novels sitting on my hard drive.  I have four now.  If I could just find someone who would step in be my "public persona" for me and do all the readings and all the touring and dealing with the public that would nice.  I long for the JD Salinger days when you could just write a book, have it published and be a big deal and not have to go on the Today Show or market anything or do anything like that.  I would love for people to read an enjoy my novels but I don't want it to get in the way of hanging out with my horse and having my own space and privacy and my daughter having anonymity in the world.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What I came away with today

Got up bright and early to head over to the Buck Brannaman clinic at the WA State Horse Park in Cle Elum this morning.  I'm glad I didn't get in to ride this year because Maiden would not have been ready to be in an arena with all those horses with her needing space issues.  All she's ever done is pin her ears and make nasty faces but then I've never ridden with that many people in an arena before.  Of course it was a gigantic arena that I was coveting and wishing I had daily access too.  With wonderful footing.  Jealous sigh.

We found a place in the shade to sit down next to a woman with two teen girls.  I put my chair down and she looked sideways at me and I said, "I'm sorry, were you saving this for someone?" and she said, "No, no, go ahead.  If it weren't ok I would definitely say something," and I felt compelled to high five her for that (because I love it when people are blunt and up front) and I just had a feeling right then we would be friends.  As it turns out we chattered away the whole morning and drove my husband nuts because of it.  Not that he understood what Buck was talking about but he said Buck could read a grocery list and his voice was so soothing he could listen to it all day.

We went to lunch in Roslyn and sat with a woman from Cle Elum and her elderly father who had just moved in with her from AZ after her mom died, then got back to the clinic in time to sit with my old friend, A. and her teen daughter.  A. has never actually ridden a horse but her daughter is a great little rider so we chattered away the whole afternoon.  Despite that I did hear an awful lot of what Buck said and it was all very familiar.  Some things he said were almost word for word what Trainer K says or close to it but with a mid-West twang.

Something that hit me near the end of the afternoon was that people come from all over to spend three days at a clinic with him.  And for many of them this was probably the best three days of education they'd have access to all year. And I suddenly felt unbelievable grateful and fortunate for the fact that I get to see Trainer K. pretty much every day.  Even when I'm not directly taking lessons from her I'm learning from her.  It just really hit me this afternoon how incredibly lucky I am to have daily education from Trainer K.  It's not that I ever really took it for granted but this afternoon it really hit me how lucky I am.

We stayed for the BBQ meet & greet afterward and I had some questions for Buck but he didn't end up attending.  I did enjoy talking to the hosts though and they had really good food and a nice little band playing.  But I was so tired we didn't stay long.  I had also wanted to give Buck a copy of my manuscript if he ever had down time and wanted to read it since I want to use a quote from him at the beginning, but since he wasn't there I figured no big deal I wouldn't give it to him.

But then I started talking to Nathan, one of his assistants and I could totally relate to him.  He left his job to work with Buck and make horses his life and the way he talked about leaving the security of his old career and following this passion was exactly like my big leap into my "mid-life crisis" of leaving behind the safety of my accounting job and going back to school for equine massage and taking a very low-paying but incredibly fun and rewarding job with little kids at pony camp.  It was one of those talks where you just feel like saying to the other person, "Amen, Brother!" to everything they say.  So, it flew out of my mouth, "I wrote this novel - do you want to read it?" and he said, "You mean Buck? I can't promise he'll read it," and I said, "No, you, I mean you.  Do you want to read it? I was going to give it to Buck but I want to give it to you," and he said, "Well, I mean I could read it. I don't know if Buck ..." but I hopefully made it clear it was meant for me to give to him.  It's kind of silly sounding but all the sudden I knew he was the one I was supposed to give it to.  I want to continue to read stuff by Buck, listen to his talks and hopefully attend his clinic next year with Maiden, but I want to keep in touch with Nathan and hear how his journey with Buck goes and how his learning goes.  Basically, I left wanting to be Nathan's friend.  Maybe we will never be in touch again but I will hopefully get word occasionally on how his adventure is going.

Speaking of my novel when we were driving over the mountains yesterday I realized how I'm going to end this particular novel and I'm going to write a sequel.  I imagine I should give some thought to trying to publish them but right now I'm having too much fun writing them.  More on that later - it's  really exciting to me that I figured out the ending of this first one and already have the sequel laid out in my head.

The hard part of the day was near the end of the afternoon session.  Earlier in the day my new friend, R. and I were commenting that one woman looked really off balance and that made us nervous.  But when her horse was walking she appeared to have a pretty good seat and seemed to be ok.  But in the afternoon ride she didn't look as balanced.  But I didn't think much of it because we figured she was on a horse suited for her.  But (and unfortunately I looked up and saw everything) I heard Buck yell into his microphone "SIT BACK! SIT BACK!" which was really loud because he had a microphone and I knew that yell and I knew that tone because I'd heard it from trainers at our barn a couple times when a horse has spooked and bolted.  But unfortunately, the girl didn't sit back, she was leaning way forward which was throwing her off balance and because of her weight was throwing the horse off balance.  Finally after a quarter turn around the arena while I was thinking "Sit back!" myself and willing her in my head to sit back and stop leaning forward, she flew forward off the horse and landed on her head and flipped over which was bad enough but her horse was pulled off balance and stomped right over her.  Aaagh!

It was a nasty fall and after a moment it hit me that she wasn't wearing a helmet.  Buck was immediately off his horse and by her side as were some of the spectators on that side of the arena.  I heard a woman near me tell someone "I have emergency training I'm going to help!" and ran over there.  People were gathered around her and she wasn't getting up, then an ambulance arrived and they cleared the horses and riders out so it could come into the arena.  A. asked if stuff like that brought back PTSD stuff for me of the time I broke my neck and I said no, but it did bring back some uncomfortable feelings from my fall in January when I broke my sacrum/back.  I just didn't want the poor woman to die right there like that in a clinic that was supposed to be fun.  Thankfully, although she was fully unconscious for a good five minutes, she started to wake up.  Later at the dinner her friend announced to the attendees that the woman had woken up and although she was disoriented and in shock she was awake and could move her fingers and toes.  That was good news.  Of course she's terrified and disoriented but she's awake and not in a coma and hopefully as we speak she is asleep at Harboview on lots of pain meds and her family is with her and it will just get better from here.

I was really glad that Buck decided to continue the clinic for the last hour because a lot of us were really shaken up.  He talked a lot about safety and ways to be safe and what to know to be safe.  He did use the term "lawn dart" which Trainer K. has used frequently when talking about leaning forward on your horse like that.  Thankfully, there was a lot of talk at the dinner about it too which helped people process what happened.  One thing that A. brought up that hadn't occurred to me was that the woman was so obese that she may not have had the physical strength or ability to sit up straight when the horse started galloping because when a horse gallops there is a forward momentum and you need to pull yourself up at your core.  I feel very fortunate that Girlfriend being my first horse and pretty much wanting to bolt every time anyone got on her back, I learned quickly to instinctually sit back as soon as a horse bolts.  In fact it helped on Girl because as soon as I'd sit back and heavy on my seat she'd slow down (because she was trained to stop with full weight in the seat).  Anyway, nobody wanted to place blame, but there was lots of "this is why you shouldn't lean forward and what can happen" talk going on.

Other than that trauma it was an excellent day and I left with such a huge amount of gratitude that I am learning from a truly great trainer on a daily basis - something not many people get to do because few people can just hop in a bus and travel with Buck Brannaman.  But I've got Trainer K. at home who is one of those rare brilliant "horse whisperers" only in her case only her students know it.  And I kind of like it that way.  I think her brilliance should be acknowledged but I also like having her to ourselves and not spread out all over the world where I can't see her everyday since I'm rooted at home with my family.

Buck and one of his assistants, Nathan.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


This has really been quite a day of WTF.  (For those of you over 18 years old who don't actually know what that acronym stands for it stands for "what the fuck?!")

It started out fine and really nothing horrible has happened it's just that two specifically weird and annoying (and potentially bad) things have already happened.  I'll actually start with the second one which is not that big of a deal but was annoying.   I was trying to train the little Australian Shepherd to come to me when I pick up her leash and call her (her habit is to run away and play chase which I refuse to do).  Unfortunately, this got the pitbull all wound up because she thought we were going for a walk.  Little dog got wound up too and next thing you know they were jumping around all sorts of ditzy, yahootastic and excited.  Just as I was about to chastise them for being too rambunctious in the house they heard something super interesting in the backyard and bolted across the house for the sliding glass door which thankfully was open.  But the screen door was not and they just plowed right through it and sent it flying (thankfully in one piece) into the backyard.  I'm actually surprised they didn't put a dog shaped hole in it.  I guess it could be worse.  It could've been my horse trying to go through the doggy door.

The other incident REALLY pissed me off.  To the point where it's good I left because I was seething angry about all the liability and potential for harm to people (especially a child) that I think I would've started a major yelling incident.  One of the trainers at the barn who I don't see much but who has some pretty high strung, volatile horses and who uses a lot of artificial means to work her horses because she doesn't seem to know how to train them without yanking their bodies around with shanks and martingales and big spurs.  Anyway, she had a student in the arena on one of her horses and the student couldn't have been more than fourteen.  And of course, the student was a beginner, had on some big spurs (which I would never use on a beginner because they don't have quiet legs/feet and one false swing and ouch to the horse and then a reaction from the horse and the riders going to be going ouch)  Anyway ... she's got this beginner up there with spurs and no helmet and I'm thinking "Well, every time I've watched a lesson with a beginner from her it's been a safety train wreck so lucky I'm done with my ride and taking my horse in on our side of the barn."   So, I'm picking Maiden's feet and chatting with a couple other boarders who are grooming their horses when I hear some weird bumping around and a scream from the other trainer and a minute later someone sobbing.  Trainer K. took off in the direction of the trainer's scream and one of the boarder's said, "Someone came off and it's not good!" So the three of us boarders ran to the arena door yelling, "Are you ok? Is everyone Ok?" and no one answered - we just heard sobbing.

Before running into the arena we looked in (just because you never know and don't want to rush into an out of control horse and get injured yourself because then you're of no help to anyone) and the teen student was all alone in the arena and she was still sitting on the horse but she was shaking really hard and sobbing and the horse was very anxious.  We rushed up to her and one of the other boarders took the horses reins and I put my hand on the teens leg to steady her and asked what happened and if she was ok and I believe my exact words were "Where the hell is  ------?!"  (the trainer).  The teen said that some horses got out and she ran out of the arena to catch them, but when she did the horse she was on started freaking out and she didn't know how to handle him so she just held on and he started rearing and she just held on.   She told us this through gulping sobs.   So we told her it was going to be ok and did she want us to help her off and she said she was too scared to move and we assured her that we had the horse and he wasn't going anywhere and one person held the horse and I put my hand on her back to steady her as she got off.

So, let me list off ALL the incredibly unsafe things the trainer did that in my opinion are inexcusable if you are teaching a minor to ride horses.    First of all SHE LEFT THE ARENA WITH THE STUDENT ON THE HORSE!!! You don't do that EVER!!!  Second THE STUDENT HAD ON NO HELMET!!! WTF??? Do you really want to risk a kid falling off hitting their head and dying on your watch?  I don't even care about lawsuits or losing your insurance (if she even has any) or liability - do you want to be the stupid dumbass who is responsible for a child dying?!  She put spurs on a beginner, she put the beginner on a horse that was going to freak out and she left the beginner on the horse when there was an obvious crisis involving horses freaking out which everyone knows is going to make other horses (even calm ones) freak out! Oh my god I get so angry just thinking about it!  If she wants to do incredibly stupid, and foolish things on her time that's one thing, but to put a student at that much risk and in that much danger because she just isn't thinking or planning or using safety precautions makes me soooooo fucking angry!  But then I'm angry at the mom if she sees this happen and still brings her child to take lessons with her.  I was seriously shaking and almost hyperventilating with rage when I left the barn and it's probably good I had to be home to pick up my daughter because I would've completely blown up at her and it wouldn't have done any good because if you're stupid enough to put kids at risk like that you're certainly not going to listen when someone yells at you about what a totally dangerous and stupid thing you just did.

Must breathe.  Must breathe.  Must breathe.  Can not do anything about the situation so I need to just not make myself feel awful about it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Busted flat in Baton Rouge ...

No, sadly I'm not back in Louisiana.  But a Kris Kristoferson song just came up on my iTunes playlist.  Ah yes, the "cool days" are so over.  I don't think I even have a shred of "cool" left in me.  Anyway, it was hot out this morning and I rode my horse despite the 90+ degrees in the arena and now I'm not feeling so good and neither is my daughter.  So, we turned on the air conditioning and are lounging around the house the rest of the day.  I hope my daughter's not sick because this weekend my husband and I are going to Cle Elum to spectate (or in the dressage world they call it "audit") a clinic with Buck Brannaman.  I didn't sign up even remotely early enough to take my horse but I couldn't have afforded to anyway.  I've read one of his books and watched the documentary about him and he has so much the same philosophy as Trainer K. but she vehemently denies that and says he's just a showman who does tricks and doesn't really know about horses.  I don't think I can convince her otherwise.  Maybe if I see him working in person I'll end up agreeing with her but I don't think so.

I did have a good ride this morning even if I got overheated.  And I didn't even wear my eventing vest (also known as my "Ninja turtle vest" and "teddy bear vest").  But once again I weighed the possibility of falling off Maiden versus getting heat stroke and heat stroke seemed a much bigger risk especially because she's been really good lately.  And when we're working hard she has been spooking less.  The other day one of the boarders had a not-too-familiar-with-horses family out visiting at the barn and one of the kids ran up to the big gate that closes off one side of the arena with the aisleway to the barn and we were just coming around the corner at a fast trot.  So the little girl runs up right in our blind spot, sees my horse coming around the corner and jumps and screams at the top of her lungs just as we pass.  Hell, that spooked me!  Maiden was so good though, she just skidded to a stop and I quickly gave her some leg and said, "Keep going" and she picked up the fast trot again and we were off.  Luckily, I believe I heard the girl's dad chastising her for that move but regardless I was lucky that's all she did and it gained more trust in me for her.

Maiden has also been stretching really well and hasn't been fighting me with the bit.  The whole balking and weaving into the center of the arena thing is a thing of the past too.  I was thinking today about the horse I bought in January and how much we struggled to be able to communicate well with each other and how far we've come.  We've also built a relationship and trust between us and I'm thrilled by small reminders of that when Maiden reacts to me without me having to barely move because she anticipates what I want her to do.  And I'm able to read her better and what she is wanting and needs.  She no longer even pins her ears when I go in her stall when she's eating now, she just politely moves her butt over to give me room to come in and continues eating.

I was thinking about the crazy-ass-bitch-dressage-trainer yesterday and how she said one of the horses was pretty spooky so be careful around him and I said, "Yeah, and he doesn't know me," and she said, "What does that matter? He's a horse. He's not a pet! He's a horse and horse's don't know or not know you they just react on instincts!"  I completely disagree with that.  Well, they do act on instincts and whether they know you are not they're still going to spook and test boundaries and such because that's what they do.  But if they have experience with you and know what to expect and have built up a relationship and communication with you they DO react differently than if you've never met each other before.  They aren't robots or insects with brains that just say "eat, sleep, mate, try not to die".  They do have memories and some emotions ... well, scared, content, angry, scared, relaxed, scared and scared.  But that's bullshit that it doesn't matter if they know you or not.  I've seen a horse act completely different with Trainer K. than with someone else because they know where they stand with Trainer K and they know what to expect from her because of their experience of her being consistent and fair.  Maiden definitely knows one of the trainers in the barn whom she doesn't like and he doesn't like her and she will react with tension just by hearing his footsteps at the other end of the barn.  It just pisses me off that there are Grand Prix level trainers like crazy-ass-bitch-dressage-trainer who know so little about horses and then spout off in such an arrogant way like they do and put out all this awful misinformation.  Urgh.  Don't even get me started.

Gandolf is a good example.  He's the beautiful Friesan who a new friend brought to the barn a few months ago.  And I mean beautiful!  Although he's too thin because like Toad he burns a ton of calories just by standing still and fretting.  So, they are struggling with different feeds to try and keep weight on him just like we did with Toad.  What worked for us was a supplement called Cool Calories and lots of soaked alfalfa pellets.  Her new owner has her on beet pulp which is working well and I think alfalfa.  But it took awhile to get the right combination and they're going through that with Gandolf right now.  Anyway, he is an example of a horse who reacts differently with people and it is very dramatic.  He is a very difficult horse and I don't fully understand why but he is actually the first horse I've ever met where my instinct was "this is a dangerous horse - stay away from him!"  He's sweet as can be but he is completely unpredictable and in his own world so when he spooks he will plow right over whatever is in his path.  It's like humans don't exist in his world except something in his way.  Even Toad at her worst would react if you reminded her you were there and jump away from you.  But Toad wasn't "dangerous".  She was hot and high strung and spooky and poorly handled and super green but she wasn't "dangerous".  I've never actually met a horse until Gandolf that I felt was dangerous.  Which is sad because he's so sweet and so anxious and needy that it makes you want to help him.  But I'm always offering to lead and groom (and ride) horses for people and Trainer K. and he's the first horse I've said no, I don't have enough experience and I will get hurt.  But Trainer K. does fine with him.  And it's cumulative.  The more she does fine with him, the better he does.  But give him to me and I bet you anything he will not act with me the way he acts with Trainer K.  And he still freaks out so I don't see a day when I'm going to want to be handling him myself.   But he is a dramatic example of a horse who is different with a person he knows and trusts than with a stranger.  I would really like to see what Buck Brannaman's take on him would be.  In the documentary he met a horse that was truly dangerous and said that no one but a professional should handle that horse.  I'm wondering if he'd say the same about Gandolf?  Too bad we can't just give him to Buck as a project horse for him because he's a tough guy and I don't want Trainer K. to get hurt.  Or Gandolf's owner who is awesome and really nice.  Well,  I don't want Buck to get hurt either but then he's an old cowboy - I think they're invulnerable.

In happier news Trainer K. just came back from a clinic with Andreas Hausberger from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.  I told her I wanted to take Maiden next year but didn't think I'd be welcome because it's all Lipizaans and Warmbloods and Friesans and I'd come waltzing in my rescue horse of unidentified breed.   She said I should go and it would be fine and nobody's going to care.  And I guess if someone with their $50k Warmblood or their $100K Hanoverian looks down on me with my cute little rescue-horse-that-could then they're a snobby bitch and who cares what they think.  Hey, my horse piaffes when she has tantrums so there! Of course, they're poorly executed piaffes but still it's a fancy little tantrum!  Trainer K and my guess are that she's Quarterhorse and Thoroughbred but who knows.  I need to find a place to do a breed DNA test because I'm curious.  Whatever she has in her she's quite lovely so who cares that she doesn't have fancy breeding papers.

Monday, July 8, 2013

candles, dressage shows ... oh what else?

On Saturday my daughter wanted to got a craft store to buy some supplies to set up a party for her American Girl Doll who turned two yesterday.  I mentioned to a neighbor we were going to Michael's and she said "Oh no, go to Hobby Lobby - it's insane!"  So, after looking it up online we went there instead.  And yes, it is insane in more ways than one.  In a good way because it's huge and not very expensive and has just about everything and the staff were really helpful and friendly and nice (which lately at least here in the "Greater Seattle Area" is rare in customer service).  The other way was just surreal because on their website they are waaaaaaaay fundie Christian.  Like white skinned/blue-eyed Texas Jesus fundie.  Before I gave them my business though I did peruse their website for anything offensive like homophobia or racism but didn't find anything. Mostly it was the nice stuff from Christianity - you know, the stuff Jesus *actually* said, not the hate that some angry, messed up humans later added in and tried to push in Jesus's name (see - this is where the "don't take the Lord's name in vain" comes into play - so many nasty, mean people who preach hate hide behind the label of Christianity by saying "God said it" and that is what I think that commandment means - not the whole "don't say "Oh God!" when you're surprised crap).  Anyhoo ...

My daughter found all the supplies she needed and we added the bonus of little bottles and colored sand  to make sand bottles (which she came home and spent the all afternoon doing).  And I found wax and candle molds for making candles which I've decided after the first batch actually turned out, is my new hobby.  Only I'm going to make aromatherapy candles instead of just plain candles.  Which is going to be interesting because the only "scents" you can find at the cheap easily accessible places seem to be food scents for candles.  Hmmm ... if I wanted food scents I'd bake my own cinnamon rolls and apple pie, thanks.  Anyway, that's my newest thing I'm adding to my massage practice is selling aromatherapy candles on the side.  Yep.  I'm this side of woo-woo, it's true.

Speaking of massage therapy I finally finished my continuing education (no thanks to Brian Utting's class - it was a fabulous class but when I emailed asking if I would get credit for the hours I was there before I got food poisoning and had to leave early neither he nor his assistant ever emailed me back even to say no ... lovely ...)  Anyway, so I went ahead and took a different class in aromatherapy and got my hours but it was not the class I'd hoped it would be.  It was all woo-woo stuff about easing the soul and clearing the aura.  All well and good but it's not what I'm into.  I was hoping for something that talked about neurological reactions from olfactory experiences.  Regardless, I slogged through the class and now know way more about how to ease a troubled soul with Bergomot and Ylang Ylang than I ever wanted to.  And the biggest part is my application for reinstating my license got dropped into the mailbox yesterday all completed and signed and ready to go! Squeee! Now I just have to re-take the licensing exam.  Yikes.

Yesterday I volunteered to scribe at a dressage show which is always fun.  Apparently, the Humira is working better than I realized because my hand was doing really well after my four hour shift.  In fact I was having so much fun that I would've happily done a couple more hours before my hand gave out.  Maybe I was abbreviating more but I don't think that was so much that it made a difference.  Last year around 3.5 hours my hand would be really achy but this year it felt ok which was really nice!  I was having so much fun hanging out with the judge and watching the kid riders. I wanted to stay and watch the adult riders but I'd been there all morning and figured I should get stuff done at home.

There were two riders who were doing Western Dressage.  I'd like to keep an open mind but honestly, why?  I told the judge it reminded me of this religion that always baffled me called Jews for Jesus which seemed based completely on an oxymoron (afterall if you actually learn about religion you'll see that Christians are Jews who believe Jesus was the messiah and Jews just don't believe Jesus was the messiah - well and Jews know the Old Testament is the Torah and study it intensely whereas many Christians don't know that and take it literally and claim Jews are a heretic religion ... sigh).  Anyway ... once again, when I made that comment and immediately thought "ooops - too loaded for the judge's box!) thankfully the judge chuckled.  Schooling shows are not as hardcore about etiquette as the high level shows which makes them even more fun.  Anyway, we had two Western Dressage riders in the morning and I couldn't really figure out how it had anything to do with Dressage except it was Western riding accepted by the USDF.  The first rider was either a very old teen or a young adult and riding a beautiful Mustang who he claimed was super green and spooky, but the one who was super green and spooky appeared to be the rider because he was freaking out about everything and leaning way forward and scared to take up the reins and refused to do anything but walk the whole test (except when he stopped on the rail to chat with his multitude of friends who were lining the rail).  So that set us back time wise quite a bit.  But then a little girl (I asked someone how old she as and she's 11) came out on her beautiful little pony with her perfect posture and a beautiful Western shirt and shining silver buckle and rode a very good test (supposedly since I had no idea what I was looking at and the judges are all doing their best with a brand new discipline).  Her horse had nice form and was happy and relaxed and in all she was a very good spokeskid for the new discipline.

The judge explained a little what she understood Western Dressage to be and what we came to was that it's hopefully a positive thing because it will bring more of the classical ideas of "training for the good of the horse" and use of proper impulsion and training the horse to build up proper strength instead of just forcing them into position with mechanical tools - hopefully it will bring that more into the Western disciplines.  Of course, it would be nice if some dumbass *Dressage* trainers would actually train like that.  Grumble.

Speaking of dumbass Dressage trainers, when I was having lunch with the other volunteers (my shift was over but hey! free food and I was having fun hanging out with them) I was telling one woman about Maiden and the trainer that screwed her up by forcing into doing piaffe and passage when she didn't even have the core or back strength the trot or canter properly.  Sure enough, the other volunteer burst out with "Was his name -----" and I said "Yes! How did you know?" and she said, "He is infamous for ruining horses.  I can't believe he's still in business!"  Then it turned out she had a restraining order against him on top of things.  Wow.  It makes me sad that I know of two really horrible Dressage trainers just in this area alone who mess horses up yet have these huge egos and bring in people who don't know any better.  One is that guy who messed up Maiden and the other is the crazy-ass-bitch (or whatever my nickname was for her) that I worked for for one unfortunate day.  Well, then there's the one at the barn I interviewed at but decided against working at because the trainer was such an enormous train wreck and everyone worshiped her because she'd studied with a trainer for the Olympic Team.  Duh, people! That just means her parents have money - it doesn't mean she's a good rider.  If you watch her ride she is not a good rider.  Aaaaaaagh!

There was one rider in the show that was being very cruel to her horse during the test and she got many comments from the judge to that effect on her score sheet.  We were apparently this close to the judge ringing the bell and disqualifying her.  The judge showed enormous restraint and when the runner came to pick up the score sheets that were done I told her the judge was being very professional and I had to keep my mouth shut because my comments all included far too much profanity.  That would be the hardest part about being a judge.  It's fun to listen to her comments on the good riders or the riders who are trying hard but at these open, public schooling shows you get anyone who wants entering and inevitably every time there will be some dingbat out there whipping their horse, or using crazy, nasty bits and such that are borderline abusive.  The same horse had a kimberwick bit (I have to look up what that is) which is considered abusive by the USDF but they don't have rules about them for schooling shows.  But the first girl that rode with the bit had really quiet hands so it wasn't a problem for the horse.  Later in the show the trainer of the girls rode and had two whips (which I'd never seen before and is also not allowed in higher level shows apparently) and was such a trainwreck that at one point we were sure she was going to fall off at a walk.  Urgh.  So, seeing that stuff is frustrating because there's nothing you can do about it.  You can't go tell the kids, "Your trainer is horrible - go somewhere else!" and you can't just take the horses away from them.  It's much like volunteering at my daughter's school and running across those kids whose parents are so heinously messed up but aren't doing anything illegal - just really heavily messing up their kids.  This is why I'm not aspiring to be a school teacher or a Dressage judge.  Well, the latter takes so long to learn I'm not sure I have enough time left in my life to learn it!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Busted ...

Our family went to Kirkland on Thursday to spend the evening with one of my BFF's families and their friends.  Usually we hang out around our house and BBQ with our neighbors but they were going out on a boat for the day so we actually traveled somewhere.  Ever since a bad experience years ago where we were driving through downtown to get home and some teens through a fire cracker under our car as we were driving by and it exploded only seconds after we drove over it I've not wanted to go anywhere on the 4th because there are too many stupid people with explosives.  That and since we live one block from the "war zone" (unincorporated county land) I'm always a little paranoid about our house and leaving our pets alone in said house.

Anyway, our house is still standing, our pets are ok and we had a lot of fun.  Until we were all sitting out in the cul-de-sac setting off those little family fireworks like the little fountains and spinning things and being super safe with a big chalk line the kids couldn't go over and a big bucket of water to put the spent fireworks in ... and someone called the police because it's illegal to have fireworks in Kirkland.  Valid I suppose but I do hope that the folks a couple blocks away with the home-made bottle rockets and the huge rockets that explode in the sky got busted too.  We were not capable of burning down anyone's house so busting us was not going to do much good for public safety unless they busted everyone else.  Anyway.

The amusing part to me was when the car drove up and turned on its lights my first thought was to jump up and grab my daughter in my arms and run.  Then I realized I'm in my 40's and don't do stuff like that anymore so I stayed put and we all listened to our lecture and the policeman was very nice and recognized we were not capable of burning down anything with our little family fireworks and did not issue BFF's sister or husband a citation.  But we packed it in for the night.  The kids all ran inside crying and declaring "The cops ruin everything!" and I tried to explain the whole "they're just upholding the laws enacted by the city council and mayor and they're just trying to protect us because stupid people with fireworks are really dangerous so because the stupid people won't take responsibility then we have to have a blanket law that covers everyone equally.  So really it's the stupid people's fault."  Somehow that ended up translating to most of them as "Ok -the cops don't suck, the government sucks"  which seems to be the amount of logic-forming ability that most adults have, so I just left it alone and figured their parents would have to help them figure it out.

I went out to see Maiden in the morning and she was pretty anxious out in the pasture with neighboring fireworks going off.  It was not helping that Gandolf was in the paddock next to her freaking out.  She seemed to feel better once she was in the barn and didn't react when the fireworks would go off while she  was in the barn.   But when I took her out to lunge her she was all over the place and every time a person walked by the front door in the arena she would freak out and scoot away, start bucking like crazy and take off running full speed in her circle (and she only stayed in a circle because I dug my heels into the ground and held on and used my whole body weight to resist her running off into the lesson that was going on the other side of the arena - apparently she was coherent enough to listen to that pressure).  The funniest was when *two* people walked by the door and she jumped straight up in the air and practically fell to her knees (like she was trying to duck under the half wall) then popped back up and started bronco-ing.  I wish I had a video of it!  Needless to say I did not ride her on Thursday!

I did ride Misty for a few minutes which was nice since I haven't ridden her in over half a year.  Her leasee was doing a practice ride and trying to get her to stretch and getting frustrated.  I asked if I could ride her for just a few minutes - I wanted to try the hand position that Trainer K. has been having me work on to encourage Maiden to stretch.  It took me a few minutes to adjust to riding her again and more to riding in the leasee's saddle.  She has knee blocks that force your legs back to the right position where they're straight down and you have that nice line from your shoulder, hip, ankle.  But the problem with me is that when my legs are back like that in a straight line where they should be, I'm not quite strong enough or limber enough to maintain that position correctly when posting so when I tried to post I'd pitch forward more than I'm comfortable with.  It felt good for walking because it really stretched my adductors and opened up my pelvis area, but I'm just not ready to post correctly in that position.  Still, the saddle felt really good when we were walking.

Anyway, once I adjusted to that I positioned my hands where Trainer K. instructed and increased my contact with a little leg and whooosh! Misty's neck stretched right out.  Her leasee squealed out a "How'd you do that?!" and I showed her how Trainer K. has me working on positioning my hands and explained what she had explained to me about following a straight line to the bit.  It was fun to talk riding with another student and do that "now you try" with riding.  I haven't done that in a long time.  Usually I'm just practicing by myself - even if there are other people in the arena practicing too I'm working on my own thing.  Or else I'm taking a lesson.  So it was a nice change to talk about what we're learning together and work on our riding together for a little bit.