Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fear and break-way ponies (though not related)

Fear has been probably the one biggest challenge in my life.   I've struggled with panic disorder since I was eight years old and on top of that my mom's fear that if I move or sneeze I will die carried over in my unconscious.  So, it's become second nature for me to want to always push myself to do "scary things".  Some things are just too much still - for instance I am afraid to travel across country by myself.  Not because I don't know how to do it, I am one of the most organized travelers I know and can navigate any strange place I end up just by brazenly walking up to locals and chatting and endearing myself to them.  But I have an irrational fear of traveling by myself.  Probably a carry-over to the old days when I had agoraphobia and couldn't even walk my dog around the block without a paralyzing panic attack.

Anyway, fear is a big issue in the horse world.  Some people don't have it all - literally to the point where I think they're crazy or just incredibly stupid.  They hop on any horse without a helmet in shorts and flip flops and text and play games on their phone sitting up on the back of a giant animal with a mind of its own.  People like that are just incredibly lucky they aren't dead or crippled yet, although I have heard of too many people like that who are now.  But the average, sane person even when they wear a helmet and take precautions has a little bit of fear.  Probably the only people I know who are sane and don't have fear on horses are people who have ridden their whole lives and ride practically every day.  Grand Prix riders and trainers and some cowboys I've met who used to ride broncs in the rodeo.  They've seen it all and been through it all and know how so handle just about everything.  But the rest of us civilians, everyone I know seems to have a bit of fear on some sort of continuum.

I fall somewhere in the middle of that.  Some of my fellow middle-aged riding friends have said they are surprised and don't believe I have fear because I love cantering and like to ride lots of different horses.  But I actually consider myself one of those people who has an unusually high level fear.  Even though I'm out riding, I'm also always thinking and preparing for the worst case scenario.  But I keep riding and taking lessons because I believe what Buck Brannaman has said many times in clinics and in interviews - the answer to fear is knowledge.  The more knowledge of how to handle a situation you have the less fear you feel.

A lot of my ability to ride horses without completely freaking out is not because I'm not a generally fearful person (which I am) but because I've been doing it since I was a kid.  I was at my rider pilates class last week and we had to try a new exercise - kneeling on an exercise ball.  It was really hard and I was trying to ease myself up on the ball on my knees and that wasn't working at all.  My classmates told me you just have to "jump up" onto it on both knees and I was suddenly unable to even try because all I could envision was me flying off of it.  I actually said out loud "It's a good thing the first time I got on a horse was when I was three years old or I would NEVER get on one!"  If I was afraid to kneel on a rolling exercise ball in case I fall off, I would never get on a horse that's three to four times taller if I hadn't been doing it on and off since I was kid.

As it was I did end up trying to do it correctly and managed to kneel on the ball for about thirty seconds at a time.  And one time I did go flying off and tumbled over and rolled across the room on accident.  Which I thought was funny when it actually happened, but if five minutes before I'd known that would happen I wouldn't have tried it all.

Unfortunately, Dressage Today does not post its articles online but this month's issue has a really great article in the Transitions section called "Life on the Amateur Rail: This dressage rider figured out how to give fear the boot".  I cut it out and am going to post it at my barn because I thought it was such a good article.  But I do wish I could link to it here.  It's all about basically continuing to do what you want despite being afraid, just be kind to yourself and take baby steps if you need to and fuck anyone who makes fun of you for not doing more or judges you.

I have two weeks away from ponies until the fall lesson session starts at pony camp and I'm done doing chores on the weekends. I'm actually grateful for that today because it's no fun doing pony chores when it's 80+ degrees outside like this weekend is supposed to be.  But I'm going to miss those guys. 

Last Saturday I was out there all by myself and nobody had been out all day because they were done with classes, so there was an extra amount of work because no teens had been there watering and picking the paddocks during the day.  And the ponies had the whole day off so they were feeling especially full of it and acting silly.  Bubba is the tiniest one - I think he's about 9 hh's and so incredibly cute.  He's also a little alpha pony.  He was in a paddock with Bugsy who is incredibly mellow in comparison to him (so they're a good match).

I went into their paddock to pick poo and closed the gate behind me, but didn't tie it up with the bungee cord because it wasn't windy so I knew the gate would stay shut and I wasn't going to be in there very long.  I was picking poo for a few minutes and then Bubba looked up from his hay, looked at me, looked at the gate, then stomped right past with me with purpose, walked right up to the gate, nudged it open with his nose and stomped out into the outdoor arena.  I grabbed the bungee chord, walked over to him in the outdoor arena, looped it around his neck like a little lasso and led him back to the paddock with him obediently trotting next to me.  I said I applauded him on his ingenuity and shut the gate and attached the bungee cord on the gate.  I went back to picking poo and within a moment Bubba looked at me, looked at the gate, marched past me with purpose, nudged the gate open with his nose as far as it would go with the bungee cord attached, then to my amazement squeezed his fat little body out between the gate and the fence.  That made me laugh out loud.  And I took the bungee cord, put is around his neck like a lasso and he obediently trotted next to me back into the paddock.  I applauded him on his ingenuity and cockroach-like talents.  Then I wrapped the bungee cord around the gate twice so it was tight.  I went back to picking poo, Bubba looked at me, looked at the gate, marched over to the gate with purpose, tried to push the gate open with his nose and this time it wouldn't budge, so he stood there a moment, I swear he let out a frustrated sigh, then went back to his hay bag.  I really like that little pony!  He's the kind of pony you'd want to take home to live in your house since he's barely bigger than my pitbull.

I'm still freaking out about starting teaching lessons on my own in two weeks but the director of the school believes I can do it and has been helping me and my pilates teacher (who is also a riding instructor) and my trainer have all been encouraging me.  The three of them are all giving me the same advice so that is helpful.  I'm going to go in with my current knowledge and everything the three of them have been teaching me and hope for the best.  I'm sure if I continue to teach for a long time I will look back on this beginning period of teaching and be amazed at how little I knew "back then" but hopefully I will still bring something positive to my students despite that. 

I know it might sound a little silly to people who don't ride horses that I would be putting so much thought into teaching 9 and 10 year olds on super safe horses, a lot of people who don't ride seem to think "what's the big deal? They're just little kids on ponies".  But to me it is a big deal.  There's a fine balance of making it fun for the kids so they don't leave the world of horses thinking it's just hard work and drudgery (much like why my daughter quit ballet once it started to turn into "training" when she was 6 years old and it wasn't fun anymore), but at the same time I don't want to be responsible for bad habits that will be so hard to unlearn later in life if the kids decide to keep riding, or worse that they take into the show ring or the rodeo and put themselves and their horses in danger.

It's hard for me to watch shows, especially at the FEI upper levels, where a rider comes out and is in the show ring yanking on their horse's face and whipping them like crazy and basically not knowing how to ride, even though they know how to (kind of) give cues for upper level moves.  (if they really knew how and the horse was well trained they wouldn't be yanking on their faces or whipping them like crazy).  I was at a schooling show once and this woman was riding the Prix St George test and she actually said to the judge that her horse was being bad and that she might have to whip him a lot with the dressage whip during the test but it wasn't her fault, it was the horse's fault.  I wanted to say something but it was completely inappropriate for me to say anything to her.  Although I felt like saying, "Seriously? Just don't do the test then if you can't ride your fucking horse or he isn't trained to this level yet!"  But I'm only at training level and no one is going to listen to me and it would just piss her off and she'd complain about me harassing her ... blah blah blah.  So, that's part of why it's so important to me I do a good job with my young, beginner students.  I want to be part of giving a future generation of riders a good solid foundation in horsemanship and learning how to safely and effectively handle their horses so if there is one less cowgirl, or hunter/jumper or FEI rider out there NOT whipping their horse needlessly and pulling on their face and using their spurs improperly, I will be happy.  That stuff is hard to unlearn if you learn it when you're young and a beginner.  That's why it's such a big deal to me that I do my job well.

Here you go - this is my attitude toward fear and I recommend anyone who is feeling scared watch this clip many times and really think about what he's saying:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Those dang entertainment lawyers

So my entertainment lawyers suck story:  in my current novel I'm writing there is a scene with dialogue between two teenage girls where one girl quotes two lines of an Alexi Murdoch song in order to explain how she feels (and says who the song is and who it is by).  I looked up the exact wording of the "fair use" law regarding copyright and songs and poems are sketchy legally because they are so short that even a sentence is considered a "considerable portion of the song" so it's best to ask permission.  So, I emailed Alexi Murdoch's management and they sent me to Andrea (read that with a nasty snide tone).  She told me I could pay them $100 down for the use of the two sentences for the first 3,000 copies made of the novel and then $100 from then on out for all the next 3,000 copies.  So, he'd be making pretty good money if my book hit the best seller list.  Even though I'd basically be giving him free advertising by having a character quote his song in my NY Times Best Seller.  So I told her no thanks, I'd pass and I changed the dialogue.  My husband said she obviously doesn't understand the fair use laws, but I pointed out that she obviously does understand them because she knows that even though they might not win they could still sue me for using two sentences of the song in dialogue in my book and because I couldn't afford defense attorneys for a full trial they would still get money out of me.  So, no way in hell am I ever using a quote by him - not even two words.  And I'm pretty turned off of his music right now.  I realize he never even knew (or will ever know) that this conversation ever happened, but the fact that he hires people like that to work for him makes him seem just as money-hungry and fame-hungry as big stars like KISS and Metalica.  I guess you can dress in torn jeans and have that sweet, innocent Scottish thing going on and still be shallow and want to play the industry game.  Blah.

In other news I start teaching riding in a month and I already have a full day's schedule worth of students.  I've been scouring the internet for resources for games that help kids with their seat and having quiet hands since that seems to be the thing I notice little kids struggle with the most.  I've already gotten great information/education on teaching from the staff at pony camp, but you can never have too much information so I'm going to take in as much as I can find on the subject.  I asked Trainer K. if over the next month she could point out stuff in my lessons that I need to remember when I'm teaching so thankfully yesterday we'd be working on something and she'd throw in "Remember this for when you're teaching your kids" for important points, which helped too.

I'm probably worrying a little too much about it and it will be fine.  But I want to make sure that I not only give the kids a positive and fun experience with horses but that they also get the very important safety lessons too.  I was listening to an instructor yesterday (not one at pony camp!) who was telling one of his students how another student has such a bad seat and keeps progressing in the levels despite that as a detriment.  My first thought was "You're her instructor, why are you not addressing it with her and working on that instead of having her progress?"  But it reminded me I don't want to be one of those instructors whose students go on to get hurt on horses later in life because I did not effectively teach them the important safety basics.  But on the flipside I don't want to be the teacher that kids don't want to ride anymore because it's not fun, it's just a lot of work.  I figure I'm probably far more ready than I think I am.  Well, the other thing it made me think was I hope Trainer K. is not telling other students how bad I am at certain things.  Aargh.

My lesson yesterday was fun because I'm working on brand new stuff and it's exciting to actually feel like I'm making progress.  It used to be that when I asked Maiden to stop I would just use my seat but now I'm learning how to use my seat and my legs when I ask her to stop to help her square up her body.  I checked to make sure beginners shouldn't learn that and I was assured that they should just start with their seat.  But from now I'd be using my seat and my legs to stop and I'll be using these skills when I start moving into First Level someday.  We're also working on supporting the horse more with my reins and my legs instead of just steering with them.  So, when we're doing a circle in the middle of the arena and there's not wall to psychologically "hold the horse up" I'm using my outside leg and rein to work as a surrogate wall for their little brains.  It feels like my lessons have suddenly launched into not just more physically challenging things, but more intellectually interesting things (like how horse's use a wall as psychological support to help balance them).

I drove by yet another farm that's for sale yesterday after my lesson.  This one is just north of the little town my husband likes so much and is in the woods in unincorporated Snohomish County.  My first thought was "Well, we'd need a shotgun to live there!"  It actually looks like a really nice neighborhood with lots of horse farms and play structures in yards.  But all the properties are really far apart.  And I imagine there are a lot of wild animals - even more so than our bald eagle family, coyotes, bunnies, deer and random bobcat.  Which is why I've been reading up on bear and mountain lion safety.   They already have an outdoor horse arena so we're part way there - we'd just have to cover it and put in the best footing I could find.  I'm hell bent to become master of my own footing (which is what the ground is made up of in an arena and despite what non-horse people think it's quite a science within itself to have really good footing).

We got to pilates early on Wed. so I went and looked at Beth's indoor and outdoor arena and drooled over both of them.  I'm a little obsessed with footing right now and can tell you way more about it than I probably need to know since I don't currently own a farm.  Speaking of pilates we did a cool new exercise in class that apparently some of the women in that class had done but I had never done.  We balanced on our knees on the exercise balls.  Or I should say a couple of the women did. Myself and my BFF and the other student who hadn't done it before tried to and would be all hunched over in a smashed down version of the 2-point seat for about two seconds before we'd roll back off.  The other student tumbled off and rolled over a couple times and Beth was disturbed (in an amused way) by that (although she was fine and we all laughed)  So when I tumbled off and rolled into my BFF's ball Beth called it quits saying she didn't want to have to call 911 for anyone.   I probably would've been happy to practice just doing that for a full hour!  And I must clarify that I did not "fall off my ball" my ball "threw me off".  There is a difference!

And I must acknowledge a fellow geek at the stable where I board Maiden.   A couple boarders were talking about some instructor I don't know who won't let anyone watch her ride even though she promotes herself as this rare, gifted, one-of-a-kind perfect dressage rider.  I made a comment "So, she's a perfect rider until observed?" and nobody got it except for M. who piped up, "She's a quantum particle rider!" and we both laughed.  I was so happy someone else got my reference!

I'll leave you with this.  I tend to agree with Leslie.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Entertainment lawyers suck ... and dancing

Before I complain about my personal view of entertainment lawyers, I am going to share this song with ya'll.   I heard it for the first time when I was pregnant with my daughter and it made me cry because it's my wish for her life.  I know, another notch off my punk rock cred!  How many of those do I have now? Like a million?  Anyway, I was folding clothes today and was trying to find a radio station to listen to and heard this song and it made me feel like crying again.  But this time because it's been ten years now and I have succeeded in raising my daughter just like this song! I have never been as proud of anything in my life like I am of my daughter and our relationship.  She is such an amazing girl and even though people tell me it's because I'm such a good mom, I really think it's all her and I'm just benefiting from having such an amazing person as my daughter.  She's smart, compassionate, wise, beautiful, fun, goofy, and loves animals as much as I do ... she's pretty great.

Ok, I don't feel like complaining anymore right now.  I'll just leave you with this for now and tell you my shitty entertainment lawyers story later.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My first bad fishing trip and other tales ...

I'm grumpy this morning because I did not sleep well because of a couple spider bites on my arm that itched so badly it kept waking me up.  I seriously had dreams about gnawing off my arm.  I did get four hours of sleep until the Benadryl wore off.   I've tried all sorts of remedies from hydrocortisone to baking soda toothpaste and the most extreme, I found some stuff in the back of the first aid drawer for burning off warts and I even tried that.  It helped a little actually, but not all the way.

Yesterday was my first truly clusterfuck fishing trip that I can remember.  We went with the woman who is leasing Maiden and her boyfriend so that part was fun.  But the Gods were not with me and I only cast out a few times and every time I lost my lure on a snag and had to break my line to get it back and my line got horribly tangled a couple times after that.  Finally, I was cutting out an exceptionally bad tangle and I was feeling impatient and swiped my pocket knife too close to my hand and caught my middle finger.  The knife is so sharp I didn't feel it first, then blood started bubbling up and running down my finger and then it hurt.  My first thought was "Aaargh! We have nothing clean to stop the bleeding!" (I have this dark (not so) secret issue of being a germaphobe) then I saw a little packet of Kleenex in the tackle box and muttered, "Oh! Kleenex!" and grabbed a wad out to press on my finger.  I was in "get to car to get first aid kit to clean this," mode and asked my husband for his keys and he was very cranky and told me he had enough to deal with and to get my own out of my purse - which I shouldn't leave down there if I left to go to the car anyway.  I didn't know where my purse ended up because he'd moved it so after I finally found it and was tromping up toward the car I was pissed off and muttering, "Gee ... I'm fine! Thanks for asking! And I've got my purse so that's good! Better to leave a chunk of my finger by the river than my purse! God forbid!"

It wasn't a bad enough cut to need stitches but it was nice and deep and unless I kept the flap held down it kept bleeding in that lovely bubbling sort of way that finger tips do and makes a mess.  So,  I wrapped it up really tightly and went down to the river to say I was done for the day and sulk.  It turned out on the ride home that my husband had no idea I'd cut myself and thought I'd just pricked myself with a hook and couldn't figure out why I was so pissed at him.  When I got home and did a real cleaning I showed the cut to my husband and he was sufficiently contrite.

For two weekends I'm doing afternoon chores at pony camp to one, pick up a little more cash since my shifts at pony camp are over for the summer and two to get to know the horses better before I start teaching next month.  Saturday was painfully sunny so yesterday I remembered to bring my sun hat, but it was also too hot to wear it in the shade so I would hang it from one of the fence posts when I was working in the shade and that was all sorts of interesting for the ponies.  The full size horses weren't at all interested in it, but the ponies circled it and sniffed at it and Jack (the smallest next to Bubba who is literally as tall as my pitbull) actually tried to stretch up far enough to taste it.  I ended up having to chase them away from it.  Especially when I was not thinking and tossed an extra hay back over the same fence post and all the sudden Chunky Monkey was convinced that the empty hay bag and my hat were the best treasures in the world that he must pull down.

I really enjoy getting to watch their herd dynamics and see if I can figure out the pecking order among them.  I also have a thing for one of the newer ponies, Tony Pony who is absolutely gorgeous and also a very sensitive temperament.  So, I ended up spending a little extra time with him developing our friendship and encouraging him to walk up to me as opposed to me walking up to him.  And he is rewarded with lots of pets and wither-scratches.  Some of the ponies are so solid you can just walk right up to them boldly and put their halter on, but if I do that with him he looks frightened so when I have time I just encourage him to walk up to me, which for such a sensitive guy seems to be more comfortable.  And he's caught on quite quickly.  And even follows me around a little bit now - unless I'm trying to catch him in which case he thinks it's fun to run away and look back to see if I'll chase him.

I'm really taken with another of the horses - a full size one - named Charlie who is so sweet.  He hangs out with the big boys out in a big pasture in back when he's not working and when I go out to the pasture to check on them he follows me around and I swear there's a word bubble above his head that says "Look at me! I'm the good kid! Yep! I'm the good one!"  I can't believe camp is already over (for me at least).  They have two more camps to finish up summer but I'm not working at those.  My daughter had her riding lesson today though and it was nice to be one of the moms sitting in the observation loft and not having to do anything.   Although when they were doing their two-point seats my daughter's teacher was helping another student and my daughter rode by and it flew out of my mouth "Shoulders back and chin up - it will make it easier and balance you better" and my daughter shot me the nastiest look! Bad mom.  Not. Going.To.Be.A.Dance.Mom.  Sigh.

Here's a photo I took of Charlie when he was following me around the pasture when I was doing chores on Saturday.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

No haunted house for us

We went to view the haunted - though now called magic farmhouse  last Sunday and unfortunately after walking through it our real estate agent got a call saying that someone else had signed an offer subject to inspection.  The inspection was on Tuesday but they're still looking into stuff.  Apparently, there is no well so they must be looking at what it takes to drill a new one or something like that.  I have a feeling they are going to go through with it.  So, of course we came up with all the reasons it wasn't right for us.  Too big, floors need to be redone upstairs because they are still wood painted in paint from the 1940's, my husband doesn't like the 100 year old doorknobs, the upstairs rooms are small, there is no well, there is a lot of work to be done on the property which hasn't been maintained for years it looks like, all the exterior doors need to be replaced.  Of course, if the current buyers change their minds I bet all of those things would be fixable.

This week has been busy with working at the last week of camp and too many dr appointments for me.

I didn't get to ride Maiden all last week because her feet were sore from her trim and then I didn't get to ride her this week because I've been so buys until today.  We had a short ride but it went well.  I was concerned because she hasn't worked much the last couple weeks and when I was lunging her she was very stiff, with her head thrown back and her back hollow and I was struggling to get through to her to relax her back and stretch and lengthen her steps.  But when I got on to ride her she remembered how to do that and we had a very nice but short ride.  I think a lot of it I am starting to understand how to give her the aids while riding but am not quite as knowledgeable in how to encourage it while lunging.  I still have a lot to learn.

Well, I know most of my friends with kids who were big fans of the animated Avatar: the Last Airbender (which I watched with my daughter a couple years ago when she was in kindergarten and first grade) and really hated the movie.    I wasn't really hardcore into the anime series but I watched enough of it that I could tell that a lot of stuff was left out of the live-action movie, but sorry folks, I really enjoyed the live action movie as a stand-alone movie.  I think as a movie it was very beautiful and inspiring and took many important points from the anime series. I recommend it to anyone who is not a crazed, obsessed fan of the animated series (because it IS different and therefor will piss off purists).  Although I also recommend the anime series too if you have time to watch the whole thing.  Just watch it after you watch the movie.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Haunted houses

Just for fun our family is going to go to an open house for a century+ year old farmhouse in the neighboring town that is for sale.  My husband has vowed never to move again after moving out here 2.5 years ago (which was a stress case in a half - not helped by the fact that the whole family came down with the stomach flu two days before we had to move out of our old house and turn it over to the new owners).  

My husband wandered into the neighboring town a few months ago to pick up something for me that I'd bought on Craigslist and has been enamored with it ever since.  He even found a fishing hole there he likes.  Which is weird because I had no idea he liked to fish even though we've been together for almost two decades.  We didn't even consider moving out there from the city though because it is really far away and doesn't have the swanky Sound Transit line that our current town has into downtown Seattle.  I have to admit, I fantasize about moving there too though because it is so cute and so rural and so much more a small farming town than a suburban town.  I know some people who live there who commute to Seattle for work but I think they're nuts.  That's a crazy long way.  Of course not as crazy as hearing of couple people who commute to Seattle from Cle Elum.  I'm sorry - I draw the line at commuting over *the mountains* to get to work.  How do you even go to work during December and January?

I was stalking the haunted farmhouse (ok - there's no reason to believe it's haunted but just looking at the photos it looks like how could it not be?) yesterday and checking out the neighbors (of which there apparently aren't any) and I said to my husband, "There are literally no neighbors.  None.  for like at least a mile or more.  That's creepy," and my husband said, "Are you kidding? That's so cool!"  This from the guy who once told me there was no way he could ever live outside the city.  Happily surprising.  I was thinking a lot about it last night though and I would put my foot down about having a shotgun if we lived somewhere with no neighbors at all.  I've read too many horror stories.  "In Cold Blood" being one. 

I'm happily surprised that my metro-husband is realizing how nice rural living is.  I think it's helped him a lot living out in the rural suburbs to see that there are a lot of really nice people out here - even the folks who have totally different politics and religions.  Well, we have a couple problem neighbors.  One neighbor is a HUGE problem because they are bat-shit crazy and because they're Southern Baptist they think they float above us in righteousness even their kids are scary-messed-up bullies and the teen is a druggie.  Then there's a neighbor who let her house go into foreclosure owing practically half a million in debt on it and now the house is falling apart and my neighbor and I had to go into the house and lock it and climb out a window to get out because high school kids had broken the locks off the door so they go party inside so once we had the doors secured shut (without locks) we couldn't get out unless we climbed out a window.  Then there's the neighbor who is stoned on "mama's little helper" all day long and sits up in her son's room and peaks out the window through the blinds all day to spy on the neighborhood because she's convinced that I personally am out to get out her.  She's a paranoid nutcase - only not the mentally ill kind - the drug-induced kind.   Then there's the family who we have meetings every year of so to discuss whether or not we should call CPS on them for neglect because it's so frustrating to watch their poor kids being treated like that.  The rest of our neighbors are really nice families though - ranging from pleasant neighbors to good friends.  Unfortunately, two of those families are moving and it's a crapshoot who will move in.  So, I can see my husband's point of view that no neighbors would be nice.  At the same time it would be creepy at night when he's out of town to be all alone with no neighbors.  Just me, Lil Girl and the dogs.  Well, the pitbull is probably better to have around than a neighbor.

Anyway, we're not moving to the haunted house, but thinking about has given me some perspective about what I really want.  I think I want to live out in the middle of nowhere but do I really?  I think if I did I might need a shotgun, another pitbull and a home security system because I'm just too paranoid not to have all that. 

Meanwhile, in non-fantasy news, Maiden's feet were still sore yesterday.  She's probably 80% better but I don't want to work her at all until she's 100% comfortable.  She's got enough going on with those feet without any additional pressure.  It might be wishful thinking but after four days of anti-fungal treatment I think there might be some hardening up in her feet though.  Not much, but a tiny amount.  I figure the farrier knows what he's talking about but it's also nice to see a little bit of result myself.

So I took my riding lesson on Misty yesterday.  She's so different from Maiden, for one thing she's at least a hand shorter so I felt like I was riding a little pony.  She was being very un-Misty like though.  When I used to ride her in lessons over a year ago I really struggled to keep her going slow.  Yesterday she'd speed up and I'd slow her down with my seat and she'd just stop trotting.  This happened over and over again that she'd stop trotting once I got her to slow down.  That was a whole new issue for us and I didn't feel like a very good rider through my whole lesson.  I felt like a total cluster-fuck to be honest.  And she got mad a couple times and threatened to rear which was surprising to me and I wasn't quite sure what to do with that because she'd never done that with me before.  I really felt like a trainwreck.  I thought because I used to ride her it'd be easy, but she was so different than Maiden and I felt like I had a big adjustment to make.  It was really hot so I didn't wear gloves and Misty tried so many times to pull the reins out of my hands that I had a blister on my ring finger on my left hand by the end of the lesson.  I'm definitely going to wear my riding gloves from now on if I ever ride her again.  I will say we did fine when we were just warming up and walking and stretching.  She stretched very nicely and steered easily.

I'll be glad when Maiden is 100% and I can ride her again.  Probably by tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My poor horse

My horse's feet are just not happy campers and I have not been able to figure out why.  The area around the outside of the hoof is called the hoof wall and that's been very weak and splitting and breaking off and getting big cracks.  I tried putting conditioner on her feet because they've been so dry but that almost seemed to make it worse.  So much worse in fact that when I was riding her (in the arena which doesn't have the best footing but isn't like concrete or gravel) a piece of her hoof wall just chipped right off.  I filed it down as best I could so there were not jagged edges, but it was a small fix.

The farrier came today and I told him that Maiden always walks around like her feet are sore and filing them down so that they're not so long and flaring (like they get between the typical 6-8 week span between trims) doesn't seem to do any good to stop the soreness.  I told him Trainer K. said having shoes would help because her feet are so weak and with the little bit of research I'd done I was prone to agree.  But once he looked at her foot he said she had a serious fungal infection that had caused the soles to be too spongy and weak and when he cut off the top lawyer to expose the white line (the sensitive part under the hoof wall - kind of like your cuticles - you could see little tiny pebbles that had punctured and gone through the sole and were squished into the white line.  So, I couldn't see them when I cleaned her feet because they'd gone through the sole like a sponge, but she could feel them like a sliver under one's fingernail every time she walked.  Aaaaagh! Poor Maiden!

I asked how long she could've had it and he said it could've been coming and going for as long as I'd had her or longer.  In fact, he said that the little pebbles getting in there  where the white line is could cause abscesses.  Which makes me wonder if that's why her feet were so absecc ridden when she was seized in the criminal neglect case a few years ago.  It's not an obvious thing it sounds like so it could've just gone unnoticed for a long time. He said he could only tell today because it's been so dry there is no way a horse's feet could be as spongy as hers.  So, it's five weeks of Thrushbuster medicine every day and then we'll go from there.  And no shoes right now because he said I need to be able to get in there and clean thoroughly every day and get the Thrushbuster into every crack and crevice every day.  Plus, he's afraid with the way the hoof wall is crumbling right now and how cracked it is, that nails will separate the white line even more.  So we'll revisit in five weeks after treatment.  And he said to watch and see if she become less tender after things start to clear up because she won't have the pebbles up inside her feet.   The worst part was picking up a piece of hoof he had trimmed off and showing me where there was a hole (which was only visible from the underside) then showing me her hoof where there was an obvious pebble crushed into the white line.  Ouch!

I'm hoping we're on the right path for her and that her feet will be feeling better soon.  She's been an awfully good sport despite all that's been going on with her.

I had to call to make a doctor's appointment for myself this morning (which I never did because I was on hold for so long and then I had to leave so I just hung up ...) and this song was playing on the hold music and now I'm wishing I still had my old Styx Grand Illusion album from sixth grade.  Yes, I know it wasn't on that album.  Wondering if it would be a bad idea to download a bunch of Styx on iTunes or if that's just another nail in the coffin of my punk rock cred.  (sidenote:  the older I get the more it never ceases to amaze me that I continue to realize how much more fun I could've had if I just had never worried about being "cool")

Sunday, August 4, 2013

People are weird

Every few months or so I tell myself that it would be better for my mental health if  I stopped reading the comment sections of news sites.  Then I get curious and read them.  Then I get all irritated with how bizarre and stupid people are.  So I try to leave a comment with some basic common sense thinking it will diffuse the extremists and all it does it get my comments a lot of "thumbs down" and a lot of comments saying I've been "brainwashed by the system" and all that.   Then I really think our country is full of dumbasses.  Then I have to go through the process of reminding myself that usually the people who comment on new sites are the ones who are the most extreme in their beliefs and that extremists don't want to hear anything about reality or common sense.  Then I remind myself it is not good for my mental health to read the comment section on news sites. 

The first book I read by Jon Ronson (which led me to being a huge fan) was Them: Adventures with Extremists.  It was eye opening about how many loopty-loops there are in the world, but it also was a good book for me to read because Jon Ronson's attitude of calm acceptance of this particular reality was so encouraging.  His background as a journalist who is an emotionally distant outsider just reporting the facts made it much easier for me to think about all the diverse types of people out there and that it doesn't matter if they believe things differently from me ... like that our president is actually one of the alien lizard people who are taking over the world.  I have no problem with people believing all sorts of different religions (as long as they don't try to argue with me that their religion is the only way and I'm a bad person for not believe it - then the are treading into "being a jerk" realm) so I guess as long as they're not hurting anyone I should have no problem with people who believe that government spies are watching us all the time and that Liberals/Conservatives (depending on the nutcase talking) are in cahoots with the devil to bring on the Apocalypse.  (I find it interesting that "cahoots" is actually in spell check).

This is going to be an issue I can already tell when I become an equine massage therapist.  There is nothing I can do about people being poor riding instructors and teaching people in ways that to me seem dangerous.  The trainer at our barn that I got so mad at when she left a student alone on a horse she couldn't handle so that she (the trainer) could chase down two stallions that had escaped and were fighting (previous post lists all the "shouldn't do that's" such as don't leave the beginner on the horse when stallions are fighting outside, don't leave the beginner alone on the horse at all, the child wasn't wearing a helmet, etc. etc)  Anyway, I can't do anything about instructors like that.  And the child was back last week to take another lesson so I can't do anything about dumbass parents who can't recognize a dangerous situation when they see it.  But what will be hard will be situations where a person is actively doing stuff to damage the horse and I don't know what to do about that.  It's not my place to tell a professional trainer "what you're doing is hurting the horse, you need to train horses differently".  That would be a very fast way to lose all credibility because horse training is not in my scope of practice.  But at the same time, in good conscience how will I just watch that behavior and not say anything?  I'm hoping that is something we will talk more about in class.

I thought a lot about that in the Buck Brannaman clinic a few weeks ago.  I even said to his assistant, Nathan "How can you guys be so calm?  I get so angry and riled up when people don't do things right," and he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about and said, "You just learn to take things in stride," or something like that.  And the calm way he said it was baffling to me.  I need to get to that point.  I'm not a superhero who has to go out and make everyone be a fair and just horse whisperer.  I can't save the world.  There is a section in a book by Buck Brannaman called "Believe" where he talks about one time he was being beaten and he saw a neighbor watching what was happening and then walk away and how he realized as an adult how that might've been the best thing the neighbor did and listed off some of the negative repercussions that might've happened and been worse had the neighbor tried to intervene.  So that is an interesting take on the whole "accepting the things you can not change" thing - something I struggle with quite a bit.

It's not like Buck just let people do things wrong in the clinic, I do recall him saying at one point something along the lines of, "What is it about you people that you can't let go of the reins when it's time?"  and that amused me because Trainer K. has said a similar thing to me doing the same exercise with Maiden asking her to stretch then trying to get me to give her enough rein to fully stretch.  But he didn't seem to get upset about it like I was on the sidelines.  One person I just wanted to hop up and yell, "What is wrong with you? He said LIGHT contact! That doesn't mean yanking your horse's face and wrenching his neck until he starts bucking because he's in so much pain! Get off this horse right now you idiot until you can listen!"  No, that would not be nice.  I need to work hard on being nice.  A lot of times people just don't know any better.   Just like how my brain understands the right timing for transitions but my body can't do it yet.  They might just not be able to immediately get the idea just yet. 

I think this part of the aspect of equine massage will be far more challenging for me than anything else.  But probably good for me at the same time.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My bird friends ...

Someday when I have a little more disposable funds I'm going to set up that bird cam on the bird feeders outside my kitchen window.   Over the past couple months we've got quite a few regulars that I'm enjoying watching.  And in the last week a gang of black-capped chickadees has commandeered one of the bird feeders and regularly chases away the bigger birds.  Then they post two or three around the periphery while a couple of them eat.  They're like little hooded gangsters.  There are now two goldfinch couples who come by every day, the usual house sparrow couples and the new arrivals a black-headed grosbeak couple.  The latter are the most skittish and even the hint of a black-capped chickadee in the area (or me trying to snap a photo from the kitchen window) sends them flying off.  We also have one or two bald eagle families behind our house but we only hear them but rarely see htem most of the time. Except rare early evenings if we happen to be out and are lucky enough to see one of them heading out to hunt.   I've got a couple other bird watching friends who think this is cool but most of my neighbor's eyes glass over if I talk about it - a lot like how their eyes glass over when I talk about horses.  Or science.

My week off from working at pony camp was not even remotely as productive as I'd hoped.  I guess it was more productive in that I was able to get out and work with my horse every day and I was able to go do fun stuff with my daughter.  We went kayaking with one of her friends and a the mom at a local lake on Wednesday and I sent my 9-year old daughter and her 10-year old friend out alone in the kayak for the first time.  Because neither girl had much kayaking experience and the 10-year old had none to my knowledge and is on the autism spectrum so I wasn't quite sure how much of her "I can do it" was coming from wishful thinking rather than fact, we tied a rope to the kayak just in case (since neither of us were wearing clothes condusive to swimming out into the lake to save them).  As it was they did really well.  My daughter was far more proficient in paddling a kayak than I'd thought so next time she can go out without a rope (as long as I'm wearing clothes I wouldn't mind swimming in just in case).

Maiden is doing well and she is still trying very hard to do what I ask her.  On Tuesday I had a lesson and we were working - again- on my timing and also on having Maiden actually have energy in her transitions.  When I ask her to trot she usually does a few steps of a super slow trot and about half way around the arena we finally get going.  Trainer K wants me to work on going from an active walk straight into a working trot.  It took a few tries and Trainer K. having to take my dressage whip from me to tap Maiden on the butt to get her to move but she finally got the idea.   So, the next day when we were practicing when I asked her to trot she went straight from the walk to a canter!  Such a sweet girl!  I slowed her down and laughed because she was trying so hard and then we found a happy medium.

I've been thinking a lot about my friend's Friesan who Trainer K. has refused to ride anymore because he's too dangerous.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around how he doesn't seem to understand that humans are sentient beings and not plants or tress you just stomp over.  I wish there was more research into how horses brains work because in my very limited time with horses as an adult I'd never met one who was so oblivious to human space.  Trainer K. also said he does not comprehend cause and effect and I'm wondering if that is tied into the same part of the brain that acknowledges the space of other living things.  Not that horses are born respecting humans, but if a horse is running at you and you wave your arms and yell "Stay away" it is natural instinct to avoid that - but he doesn't. If I hadn't run out of the way he would've literally trampled right over me.   He scares me quite a bit because of that.  When I got Toad she was probably a "dangerous" horse to a certain degree because she was poorly handled and had no ground training and was very nervous and scared.  But her natural instinct to respond to pressure was there and the Friesan seems to lack that.  It makes me want to study horse neurology although I'm not sure how much research is out there.  I'm wondering if he has brain damage or a disability that has disconnected the ability to understand cause/effect and to respond to pressure - in which case he will always be very dangerous.  Which is sad but good to know if that's the case.