Thursday, December 17, 2009

ring of fire

I have no idea how old I was. Ten maybe? Twelve? Young enough to be shy and to need permission to go outside of the yard.

Our back yard was big, with my pony’s field off to one side of it and Vandiver’s field off to the other side. Vandiver’s field was bigger and went back further than ours and had a little seep of a creek through it that in places just made it swampy for twenty feed across and in places flowed maybe three inches across. Enough that they didn’t have to have a water trough for their chickens.

I don’t remember anything living in that field but that was probably because I’d never paid attention to the cows. One day I came home and there were horses there. Horses. Big horses. Beautiful horses. And one summer evening I came home and there were people with those horses. They were hanging out on the tailgates of their trucks and saddling up and laughing and talking and riding around the field some. I took up a post beside the fencepost closest to them in the fence that separated our yard from their field. And I stood there.

I just watched. I couldn’t really hear anything. I had no idea who they were. I didn’t care. They had horses; they might let me ride their horses. The girl’s saddle even looked like the Lone Ranger’s saddle, black with silver spots all over it. And eventually I guess they noticed me. Or maybe they noticed that I’d stood there and not moved for an hour. So they hollered at me and invited me over. “I’ll have to ask my mom,” I hollered back. And I ran.

I ran downhill through our yard as fast as my legs would carry me and into the kitchen where my mom was and asked if I could go next door with the people who had the horses. Who are they? I don’t know, they have horses and they said I could come over. Did you invite yourself? No. Why did they invite you? They saw me standing by the fence. I think she smiled at that. I don’t know if she went to see who they were or she just relented to my joy at being around horse people or if she really knew who it was all along (or knew she could easily find out the next day). But next thing I remember I was over there hoping to be allowed on a horse.

I don’t remember who they let me ride that night but they did let me ride someone. I think maybe it was Teardrop. She was the one in the fancy saddle. All the horses were gaited, as was my pony I’d had since I was three. Teardrop was a chestnut with a star shaped like a teardrop, a mare with a presence. Rex was probably the nicest (personality wise) horse over there at that time. He belonged to Billy who was in love with Teardrop’s Sherry and they were probably both still teenagers. Rex was grey and a racking horse and could park out till his belly was near on the ground. There were others I don’t remember their names. There was Honey, a little dish faced palomino who gaited with a dish too.

And not too long after that, and for years thereafter, every now and then on a Sunday morning our doorbell would ring and, as my mother would later tell it, “A grown man would ask if you could go riding with them and they’d brought you a horse already saddled up so how could we say no?” It was Honey they brought for me. If they didn’t have a horse for me that day, they’d still come get me and let me ride in “big red”, the truck that Shirley, Coo Boy’s wife would be driving. It was Coo Boy I reckon who took a liking to me and watched out for me. He loved the horses and knew I did too. Sometimes if they weren’t going so far I’d ride my pony and I can still remember Billy saying, “Look at that pony, hot footing keeping up with these horses.”

We went everywhere, on mountain roads we’d stop by country stores and go in and buy a loaf of bread and some bologna and eat in the saddle. On the strip jobs we’d go seemingly forever. One time in a pond Honey surprised me by going down and suddenly I found myself standing on her saddle not knowing what to do and worried that I had ruined it. When she got up somebody poured the water out of one of the saddlebags and told me not to worry about it and on we went.

I do not understand how that idyllic time came to an end, how we wandered away, or to where.

Now in my life I feel that same grace. When LB calls me and says, “Do you want to go riding?”, when she brings me a horse and all the tack and gets the horse shod and hauls it to a trail near my home so I can come riding . . . what does a body say to that? Now when Lisa gives me run of her barn and riding privileges to her prized mare? What, indeed, does a body say to that except, “Thank you.”

Thank you to every person and every horse and every circumstance and every little thing that has helped me glimpse that shimmery magic

Monday, November 30, 2009

winter memories

The perfect rainy winter day. Saw almost no one. Cold and rainy but didn't bother me much. Work went well. No riding though. But it is just so glorious to be there by myself with the horses and the dogs and the cats and go through all the day's tasks and think my thoughts and do what I like to do.

What I have been thinking about lately is why Meredith Manor was such a good experience that I would love to have three months of again . . . or a month of.

One has to remember that I went there in 1979, when the Manor prided itself on its drop-out rate (50%) instead of its retention rate. That is, it was tough. Very tough. And it had very good riders as teachers. Like Kay Meredith was right then and there on Domino competing internationally. Denny Callan had Zenith as a young horse and was getting scary high scores on him at Training or First. And Struby wasn't so bad (can't find a link but really, she was pretty good) and was riding at Prelim then with that giant horse she had (can't remember his name). And many more (forever thanks to Jeanne Vaire Dake especially). They could and did ride. And we watched them. We watched them ride and get instructed. I actually got to see Col Lundquist teach. And Herr Schmidt ride (and the little horse, Nipper, look surprised he could do it so well). And Kay and Domino would unfailingly bring tears to my eyes with every demonstration Kerr (which they don't call Kerrs anymore).

It was great because it was riding Four days under instruction an hour and a half. Four days also with your training colt which was another hour and a half of riding. And one day of show. And you changed horses every week. And you had a pool of horses so you knew some of them and some were new to you. And you rode in a group which meant you could watch how other people handled the horse you had last week, and find out whether or not you could get your horse to do something this week that he wouldn't do last week. It was great, wonderful, timely, natural feedback on how you were doing; how good you were. It was far better feedback and meant more than the grades (which were always in line with what had really happened though) and the ribbons.

It was great because we had Mrs. M once a week and she was So were the others but she was tough in a different way. It was great because I had Holly and Benson and all three of us were good and pushed each other and also helped each other and somehow weren't threatened by the other perhaps because we each had different strengths and weaknesses and we knew what they were too.

It was great. I would love to have that level of feedback although I might not could take that level of intensity again.

Different teachers, different horses, different riders, and lots of all of them -- and no guarantee of success. But every opportunity for it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I rode. It was good.

Well, maybe not "good". There's much to work on. She wasn't too sticky but she was still very inconsistent and I thought, work on the head not bobbing around. I had fun. I think even she had fun. I think she missed the regular work truthfully.

And I got to talk with Lisa about it some. Not much. She doesn't talk much, really. But it was good. It was what I needed I think. Between the ride and the talk, maybe I can stop chewing this bone to death.

I love Lisa and I love Rolinette. And gawd but I love riding.

Monday, November 23, 2009

cowgirls don’t cry, ride baby ride

I’m feeling overly dramatic. I rationally know that. Get back on. Ride.

But today I technically had the time. I hadn’t specifically gotten permission and I’m funny about that with someone else’s horse. I figure I pretty much have standing permission but I still like to get specific permission for every day I ride. I went to get her out of her stall and something didn’t feel right. Was it a real something? I don’t know. I returned the videos and went to the grocery store instead.

And then Lisa came by and asked if I’d ridden and I felt like a slacker for not having done it. I do, in some sense, feel thrown off and I know the only thing to do is to get back on and ride.

So I’m really sure I will not have time tomorrow to ride. But Wednesday I’m only doing evening chores and I’m going in in time to ride! Period. Swear.

Tonight’s turn-out was interesting in that Romeo decided to jump out of his field. Actually, they came running and he couldn’t get stopped. Wasn’t hurt. Turned them out in another field. Will have to fix that fence in the morning.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

disappointment to discouragement

I said I wouldn't get discouraged.

I lied.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bless Me Epona

Bless me Epona for I have desired more than I could achieve.

I have so many different levels going on with this one. I am sorely disappointed in myself. I did not ride well. I did not solve the problems that the day and the horse presented. She always takes awhile to warm up BUT in the warm up she was nervous because of parking on one side of it (which didn’t affect the show arena) and I didn’t end up warming her up adequately. I opted to keep her calm and not upset by not working beside the horse eating monsters. The other option would have been to try to work her through it and that is perhaps the option I should have taken.

Or not. It is hard to tell. But I was disappointed in my ride. She was sticky with no impulsion and she was inconsistent as h*ll. The two go together in that when she moves off forward, she is more consistent.

OTOH, we got a 64.5 which ain’t bad, and placed third in our group. Seeing the video, it wasn’t so bad. Well, except for her head bobbing and her not tracking up which was exactly what the judge said. The best part of the score was that I got a 7 on rider position/effectiveness which I would always always aspire to that. And she was absolutely beautiful. And the braid was finally nice.

And everything everything about getting ready was fun. The weeks long prep, the prep this week, the working yesterday, getting there early today, shopping the used tack sale, seeing all my friends.

My children tell me that there is an entire box of ribbons in the building from the old days. And a framed thing of my blue ribbons from Meredith Manor when I won Reserve Showmaster Champion. But I won that on the strength of a choose your line jumping class where it is going for it that matters -- where I actually took my calm horse and hyped him up before going into that ring.

Sigh. Truth is, I love it. I love all of it. I love seeing people I know and have fun with do well as much as I love doing well myself.

Thank you Epona for all the blessings you have visited upon me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

not the usual

Today was the rare day of being at home and being at the barn -- perfectly domestic and perfectly equestrian. I didn’t work but went in to practice braiding and to ride. The braid is getting better and Lisa showed me her technique, different than the two others I’ve tried so far (and I’ve only ever done it three times total), that will undoubtedly work even better. And the ride was good -- muddy but good. We worked most on trying to trot a straight line, halt, and get back to a trot still straight. She wants to wiggle mostly on the upward transition. We worked on relaxing while maintaining impulsion. She stretched and walked pretty nicely today. We did canter but that was not so good but that is ok -- it certainly convinced me that we were right to not to training level quite yet.

But what was soooo great about today, at the barn, was this: I got given a very hard time! Which means, to me, that I am loved and respected. I don’t need a bunch of this froufrou “oh you are so good” “oh you just rock” crap. I have my insecurities and people are welcome to tell me they are silly but I really find that cheerful “supportive” crap to be like cool whip -- fake and bad for you, not to mention insubstantial. You can’t depend on it or on the people who engage in it.

Today the farrier came by and said he’d come just to see if I could really ride. And in response Lisa said that her horse would make anybody look good. I loved it! And later, when she was inspecting my braid, she said, “It is good from here to here,” which was about the middle third and she was right but that was quite the taskmaster of her and I loved that too. I’m very pleased with where my braiding is at this point but it isn’t all the way there yet and I do want to get it there. Seeing that yes, it is good from here to here helps get me there. “Oh, that is wonderful,” won’t get me there.

The show is Saturday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ride, ride and ride again

Sunday was four blessed hours in the saddle on Shay . . . and in the woods right behind my house! Totally cool. I've alwaysalways wanted to explore that whole place, have a map of it in my head. So now I have a bit more of it. I am very Laissez faire when it comes to trail riding . . . and my FHF who takes me trail riding is a bit more task oriented. So I told her to just brief me before rides or whatever, what are the goals, and really, I'll be glad to do it but left to my own devices I'm perfectly happy to just be in the saddle, be in the woods, be with a friend, be.

I worked for the regular Saturday person on Saturday (she was at adult dressage camp! -- doesn't that sound cool!) and so I rode. I didn't ride as hard or as disciplined as I had planned honestly. I was helping the ladies with their patterns and a few pointers and since I am riding the same test as one of them and had hoped to ride the same test as the other, they asked me to get on while they were there. They also knew I'd begun cantering Rolinette and wanted to see what it looked like. So I got her out and only did a fairly quick warm-up. She's not the most relaxed horse in the world anyway, and particularly not at the "scary end" of the arena, but what the heck, we went for it. First I rode Intro B and while there are things to work on, it wasn't bad. Straightness on entry. Need to work on that transition from halt to trot without getting crooked or tense. Bend. Bend. Bend. Good impulsion at the walk. Some relaxation at the trot (while still having that engine hopefully, and not being behind the bit). Anyway.

So on a lark I said, heck, I'm going to get her to pick up canter once in each direction and then we'll ride T2! We did and we did. And it was fun. Maybe not pretty but fun. It'll be there in the spring.

Monday we worked much more regularly and harder and also did both tests and had fun. I'll hope to get two more rides in before the show on Saturday.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ride and ride

I'm behind. In more ways than one.

So, I missed a week of work and riding with the flu. I needed the rest honestly. I went back Monday and was ready. I'd missed the barn. Wednesday we had an interesting case of colic -- a cribber mare who got a new and effective stop-cribbing collar and she colicked from the frustration of not being able to crib. At least that's the theory. That's my gut on it. She'd get over it, given time. Like a smoker. Like an alcoholic in DTs. If she didn't die first of of course. That was after a day of both the farrier and the vet at the barn, and getting sawdust after being out which meant I bedded almost every single stall. So it was a long day. But fun.

So I didn't ride on Wednesday, which I knew I wouldn't before it even started. I did ride, just a tad, on Monday. Almost only enough to introduce Rolinette back to the saddle, and me back to the saddle. Tuesday I rode with a bit more gusto. Lisa was still at the barn and came out because she wanted to be there the first time we cantered. We also discussed which test I would ride in next week's schooling show, deciding to do Intro B instead of Training 2. It's the canter thing. I've no doubt that Rolinette and I could DO T2 but also no doubt that we could not do it well. We're still working on just getting her consistent in the bridle and moving forward with relaxation so . . . Intro B is entirely appropriate. We'll set our sights on doing Training by spring.

So Tuesday we did our usual walk, contract, stretch warm up, and trotted a bit. Then I rode Intro B with Lisa watching and she gave me pointers. Like prepare for that turn down center line! Not that I don't know to do that but even knowing sometimes it just doesn't happen! Like acknowledging that I'm either going to get knocked for not enough impulsion at the free walk or not enough relaxation and stretch so go for the impulsion. Sit back sit backsitback!

Then we cantered! LOL! She was very good responding to the cue. Me, unpracticed. She likes right, she hates left, so we did right first and she did great. It felt somewhat jerky but not too bad and I didn't feel too bad to me (gawd knows what I looked like). Then we went left and it took us three tries to get the correct lead and it was much, much rougher. But it was like that on the lunge line too. I don't think this horse canters ever on her own because two circles in each direction and she was huffing and puffing. Of course, so was I.

Ah, but she is so beautiful and I'm having so much fun with her!

ok, so work on transitions, work on relaxation and forwardness, work on accuracy of the test. And sit back.

Friday, October 30, 2009

No & no

No, I did not go in to ride Rol. And no, I did not go in to ride Bart for Andre.

Sigh. I feel like some slacker, which is something I haven't felt like in quite some time. But I'll be better enough by Monday to go in and work. And work Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday is library day and Friday maybe a trail ride and work Saturday and if I'm not careful I'll be sick again because except for Friday there is no rest. And then the 14th is the show and what test will I ride in that?

And I don't feel much like I'm working it out all that well right now.

My teeth hurt. That's the hopefully last symptom of this damned flu. I need to re-make my peace with doing the dishes.

On the good side, Lisa got to ride Bart in the lesson hopefully and that thought makes me smile.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Laid Low

TMI: it started with a cough that wasn’t from sinus. Progressed to fever and aches with more cough. More fever. Then my head exploded, a big gaping red hole over my left ear and eye that I had to keep a pillow pressed into to keep everything in there from leaking out. The fact that I was freezing was also helping to keep it from leaking out. When the worst of that pain lessened and moved to the back then the other side of my head, then I got hot, burning hot, and puked nothing but bile. Four times. In the middle of the second night my kidneys felt like they were cutting their way out of my back. Daybreak was the first sign I’d had that I might actually get better at some point in the distant future. Now I am just sick - hacking and sneezing and blowing and aching - not dying anymore, and maybe even gradually getting better.

October has been a month of horse opportunity for me. I’ve gotten to ride Rolinette regularly, work at a big horse show, trail ride, be in the fun show with the girls, and even to ride Bart in a lesson with Andre.

I simply cannot do this much, stress this much (even when it is good and pleasant stress), go this much. When the kids were small and I was strictly a SAHM, I seriously tried to never “do” more then two things in a week - generally no more than two trips to town for any reason in a week’s time. We didn’t pick this life out here in the sticks in order to go go go all the time. We’ve always felt that time spent here, with each other, doing simple things like eating home cooked meals together, would be how we defined success. A long long time ago I figured out that the pace of my life needed to be slow . . . if it wasn’t slow, I made mistakes. If the pace of one's life is too fast, one misses things.

Ah, but horses. My chance with horses. When I first got Duke, it became obvious to me that I simply breathe better with horses than without horses. When I got the barn job, it became obvious to me that I was happier still with those horses and those horse people in my life. And with the barn job, I always wanted and hoped for more opportunity - to ride, to teach, to do anything responsible and horse-y. And I got it and I did it and I got sick from doing too much too much.

Oh, I’m not saying I could entirely avoid the flu virus if I didn’t do too much: I’m just saying that its part of it, it feeds into it. Everything is connected. There are no coincidences. What I’m saying is, I’m paying attention. I acknowledge.

I have to figure out how to do it all AND slow down. Does that sound crazy? I don’t think it is crazy though. Part of slowing down is just being aware to hear the slow beat of the cow chewing her cud - be aware of that and keep that as the bass beat of my life. Part of it is knowing that saying yes to everything is not how one does it all. I have to be more present in all of it - at home, at rest, at the avocation.

Lisa says for me to come ride Friday for Andre anyway, and I will if I feel like it, no prep rides notwithstanding. If I feel like it, I’ll go in on Thursday and ride Rolinette because otherwise we’re going to have to go intro in the November schooling show instead of training. But Saturday, Halloween, and making sure all on the farm is ready for Halloween, that’s all family.
Just to keep all rides on here too, I did ride Rolinette last Friday and Saturday, neither strenuously but both adequately. Friday was mostly a tune-up for the show coming up and we trotted the entire arena and she and my daughter schooled the trail class, and my other daughter and a different horse had costume fittings.

Saturday was the fun show. Husband actually decided to come even though I had rather encouraged him to just stay home. These sorts of standing around and waiting things drive him batty. But we walked in and very soon daughter did the trail class since you could do it at any time. Lisa had suggested that I take Rolinette in the arena during a schooling break but that would have meant tacking her up very early and . . . well, I just don't like overdoing the schooling. Some horses need more than others, true. I think Lisa still thinks I should have done that as she commented that Rolinette was "tense" "without any warm-up at all". Well, she was somewhat tense in the scarey end of the arena where there had recently been killer cows on the other side of the fence but I'd schooled that two days already with just minimal improvement. I could make her do it but to do that just made her more tense, not less. And I did warm her up, just in the other arena . . . and then we did stand and wait for the class. Anyway, I thought she did well. It is funny in that I realized I'm actually less nervous for competition than for lessons. We got a third in our class . . . and I was so proud of Dianne that she and Adonis beat us! Daughter in trail got a fourth (in a very big class), and daughter in costume got a medal, and we all got to go home where I then realized I was getting sick. There ya have it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

everything together

No photos of the horse show. I'd never been to the Kentucky Horse Park -- I think they were beginning to build it maybe when I was last in that part of the world which would have been when I was about 18 and for several years before then. Didn't have time to see much of it while we were there but what I did see was beautiful. The Gypsy show was in the new and *almost* finished Colosseum and the horses were in brand new barns. Camping was full so we pulled the LQ horse trailer into tent city and didn't have water but we did have electric which meant heat and that was very important because it was COLD and at least what little time we spent in the trailer we were warm.

I think there would be too many tales to even start the telling. Lots of people, lots of horses, lots to do. In the end, the horses were happy and did well; the owner of the horses came and saw them and I think had a good time horse showing; and Lisa and I bonded I think. Of course, maybe it was just that by the time we got home we were totally punch drunk! After all, Saturday we didn't leave the show grounds until 11:30 and we were back around 5:30 am because our first class Sunday was at 7:48. We left around 3 to get back to home barn around 8:30 but when we were almost there (I mean like a mile away), a wreck had the road blocked and the fireman told us to turn around in the church parking lot where we proceeded to bottom the trailer out and get stuck and block the road ourselves. Ah, but our community came to the rescue in that the nice volunteer firemen also got us out of that predicament and we shortly did get home. I could have kissed that guy when we walked up and said, "Lisa? Is that you? Don't worry -- we'll take care of you! You are the only one I know who drives a rig this big on this road."

After four days at the horse show, I had two more to run the barn. So I'm just now home. Monday everything just went too slowly to get on Rolinette so I lunged her to get her legs moving and hopefully improve her fitness since she'd already had five days off. Tuesday things were going well but then with the vet coming suddenly it was three o'clock and I still hadn't ridden or finished so I finished, brough horses in, fed, and rode *anyway*. Oh, and let me tell you, this ride felt good. I don't know quite why. She still isn't consistent in the bridle although it is improving but boy did she have an engine and the transitions were much much better (one I could even feel picking the horse up in my legs like I remember it feeling). The cows were out and two lawnmowers and she didn't like any of that but eventually (and with Lisa's help leading the way) we conquered the scary end of the arena. Well, I don't know about "conquered" but we went through it several times so that if we do the old timer's class in the fun show on Saturday we can hopefully go through that side of the arena.

That ride just felt good all over.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rock N Rol

Yesterday’s ride on Rolinette can be summed up thusly: great stretches at the walk, sucky transitions, mediocre trot.

I rode at the same time a lesson was going on and that was a mistake because there was only this one little area of the arena that felt usable without being in someone’s way.

BUT we canter next week! It is funny, isn't it, that I haven't cantered her yet? And I'm planning on doing this test with canter? I honestly at this point have no idea how we will do. She is very inconsistent, mostly. And honestly not the best gaits. Will I be able to get her to trot off? much less canter off? without everything being short and stubby in that transition? Will my position not suck?

Oh, I bought a pair of boots! Used and cheap, the ones I borrowed for the last show. The girls and I will probably enter one class each in the Pony Club fun show which is less than two weeks away. This coming weekend is the big Gypsy and Drum show that I get to work through so it is proceeds of that that are buying the boots. But my secret ambition for some of that money is to do a clinic lesson with his name is not Pierre himself on Halloween weekend. It is secret because it seems presumptuous of me that I would be ready and in shape to be able to really take advantage of a lesson with him. My self says that when I've told other people that they should definitely take because he's so good at working with riders and horses of all levels! I need to listen to my self. And I will. It just takes me awhile to broach the subject out loud.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rol-lin' with it

Rolinette and I didn’t work too hard today -- and it was cooler too which helped us both be comfortable. I let her free walk around the arena in both directions, steering clear of the menacing cows now in the neighbor’s field at one end of the arena! Then I began working her at the walk, gathering her together and then asking her to stretch down alternately. I got the best stretches I’ve ever gotten out of her today, and working on it with her I felt as though I were asking her to understand what I wanted her to do almost more than I was asking her to do it, if that makes any sense -- like we just have to learn to speak the same language. So again and again I asked her to come together (often doing 10M circles or half turns) and then to stretch down.

Then we would trot. As always, her trot started very choppy but she seemed to loosen more quickly today. After she was going I tried to ask her for that real trot she has, just a bit. I’m not sure if I got it or not but all in all the trot felt very good. We did a number of transitions, trot to walk to trot to walk to halt, etc. It seemed she had a tendency to fall into the circle at the trot which honestly is probably my weakness with that outside rein. So she’ll teach me that.

We went back and forth several times between walk and trot work. And then we stopped.

I probably didn’t pay enough attention to my own position today. I lengthened the stirrups a bit more today but I’m still unsure as to which is best for me. I rather like them longer. I certainly enjoyed myself on her and I think she is warming to the idea that we’ll be partners for this time.

Friday, October 9, 2009

trail ride -- Shay

Three blessed hours in the saddle. I think that’s what I’ll say after every trail ride. I grew up riding a lot like this. I don’t think a horse has to work on bending and extending and collecting and stuff all the time. ALL the time. There will come an opportunity in almost every trail ride to engage in these things so one doesn’t need to introduce them deliberately.

So, Shay is a youngish horse. He has thirty days of trail riding training on him so he is capable, trail wise, of doing anything, tackling most any situation he finds himself in. Our last trail ride, we just walked and relaxed and didn’t ask much. This time we did the same for the most part, but it was a much longer trail and so we decided to begin addressing one of Shay’s issues. He actually seems to do fine by himself but he gets very nervous, nay, a bit crazy, if he feels like he is being left behind by the “herd”. So what we did was that I trotted ahead a bit and then walked. He was fine with that and Pogo was fine with that. Then Pogo came up and passed us and trotted ahead. Shay was most definitely NOT ok with that. He got all light in the front and bucked some (but thankfully not very athletically) and threatened to spin and just generally went to pieces under me.

I asked that Pogo just go on so that Shay and I have a chance to work through it -- to allow him to go forward but not too fast and not allow that bucking stuff to get him what he wants. Because I could just feel him saying, “I’m going to intimidate you into letting me have what I want.” So of course, I’m not going to be intimidated. But I am mindful of the dangers of getting thrown off way up here in the National Forest. At least I’m not alone. And have my helmet on. So anyway, we do the leap frog stuff a couple of turns and he’s always nervous but he does get better about letting Pogo go ahead of him a bit. It even made Shay nervous to just trot behind Pogo -- again, he was fine (if slow) leading, but nervous following.

The other thing was a blowdown over the trail. We crossed it on the way up without incident but it looked scarier on the way down. Pogo was led across it and sort of bunny hopped his rear legs over it in a big effort. When he did that, Shay lost it. Both front legs off the ground although he didn’t really raise his body in a rear. Spun a bit. Threatened to buck. Again, I think it was the fear of being left thing because as soon as he believed me that Pogo was just standing on the other side of the log, he settle right down. He crossed the log in good form, backing right off from his urge to rush it when I asked him to settle down.

It was a good long ride. Our legs were numb and the horses were wet. Seeing as how I was a bit sore from riding Rolinette earlier in the week, I was really glad to get this ride in to help work out the sore.

Which, speaking of Rolinette, we decided our tentative goal with her was to ride Training Two at the JEF schooling show which is in five weeks. I’m excited. I was not wanting to be so safe as to go for Intro. But we’ve got a LOT of work to do.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I should start with just the facts. Although I feel like I have about fifteen posts rolling around my brain. On Monday I lunged Rolinette. I guess keep in mind that there is nothing to do with horses that I haven’t done before . . . but most of it has been thirty years ago. And lunging is something I taught myself from a book when I was in high school. And that there is nothing that I do exactly like Lisa. And that how Lisa does it is right. I don’t mean that she is terribly dogmatic about it. I do mean that she is my boss, and it is her horse, and I always feel wrong. That’s my sh*t. So anyway, the lunging. The first day I just felt uncoordinated. The second day with Lisa I felt uncoordinated. The third day by myself everything felt better, stronger, more confident. I mean, it is just walk, trot, canter but she was more responsive and kept the canter and had the go and just seemed more coordinated herself too.

Tuesday we tacked her up, lunged her just a bit both directions (and again with Lisa there I felt less capable rather than more -- that’s like social anxiety disorder or something, but still, it was better than before), and then mounted up. I’d ridden her once before but quite some time ago. I am very honored to be able to ride her. She is a truly nice horse. I mean, she can move. And she has go. And she is willing mentally.

So of course mounted I feel like an idiot again. Sit back. Sit tall. Sit back. Use your seat first, not your legs first. Keep that outside rein. With Rol, I almost feel like I could think about it and she would know and do . . . except we don’t quite know each other that well yet and my position is not steady enough yet. Her mouth is a feather, and she tends to curl up behind the bit, and so I felt tentative with the contact and yet evidently need more. My seat needs to be more there, and if it is there, and that outside rein is there . . . well, we did have some good steps. I mean some awesome steps.

So I will basically be trying to ride her 3X week. Maybe an extra day if I get to town for anything else. That in itself is a huge challenge for me because of the regular work -- at a barn none of it is something that can be put off until tomorrow, except maybe raking the isle. But we have fewer horses now so that makes it easier. The schooling show is November 14, five weeks from now. The goal is to do Training test two. I am very excited by that actually because I was anticipating needing to not be disappointed to just ride an Intro test. I may be so ambitious as to try to take an Andre lesson too. Let me get through a week or two of riding her and see. He’ll be here Halloween.

When I taught myself and my horse how to lunge when I was in high school, my dad was amazed that I could make this horse go around me and do what I said just because I said it. The horse would have been Dusty, the palomino who was really gorgeous but did not like to be ridden. He taught me how important attitude was in a horse.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

then again, maybe not

Due to the vagaries of the horse business, it looks like I won't be paid to show someone else's horses after all. I won't even not be paid to do it!

And truly, it is just vagaries and it is just business and that is what it is.

And here is what I whisper to myself in the universe: be ready for the more opportunity, the greater opportunity, that this will open the door to.

I did lunge Rolinette today. She's great. The wind has been blowing here like it is March and she wasn't wild about that. I'm supposed to ride her tomorrow and I kinda hope the wind is calm then.

I didn't figure this was worth a whole new post, but KY may still be on. Smaller. Easier. Not driving. I don't know about showing yet. But going, experiencing it, even getting paid some to do it (as well as expenses covered). But my practice of pretty much never counting on anything proves its worth once again.

Also, Rolinette was lunged again. She and I don't know each others signals entirely yet, and she is a bit stiff, but I think a part of this for me is again claiming my comfort in dealing with horses. Part of the tentativeness is, this is not my horse. I'm honored to get to work with her, she's such a queen and I'm sure she'll show me a thing or two that I need to get in touch with in myself!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

the rides that got away

I did not ride Ed or lunge Rolinette today, both of which were on the agenda. Too much rain. I mean, today was rain solid and all day. Today was rain standing in the arena and running into the barn isle and soaking through the rain coat that has lost its coating.

When I got up to go to work this morning, daughter said, “When did you start working on Saturdays?” “I’m not working on Saturdays, just this Saturday and last Saturday, so it seems like I’m working Saturdays but I’m not really.”

There is a lot going on at the barn, as I guess there always is. Comings and goings, doings and beings. For me it is refuge and, hmmm, flight deck? Because I do feel like I get to fly from there.

The big things are: There’s a big show in October in Lexington and I’ll be driving a horse trailer to it, helping with handling and working, and even showing. I wrote about that somewhere, oh yeah, here a few posts ago. So that’s a big thing, to get paid to go and show someone else’s horses. A big big thing.

And I’m getting more and more opportunities to ride. Like Ed. He’s just someone’s horse at the barn but now I can ride him anytime. I might have been able to before if I’d asked but I didn’t of course.

Rolinette, she’s a different thing than that. She’s the now retired Friesan brood mare. She’s Bart’s mother, and Willoe’s (currently pregnant), and Thea’s, and Wynsome’s, and Eclypse’s. I got to ride her once, a lesson on her, and I was going to get to ride her regularly but then she moved to the other farm and stayed there to have the baby. She came back to wean, and needs to get in shape, and I get to do that. Also, the immediate goal is for me to ride her in the little schooling show JE is hosting in November. I’m also hoping to ride Shay in his first show then, if that works out.

I’ll tell you, I felt very honored to be asked to work with Rolinette. She’s Lisa’s horse. That right there says a lot.

Let me tell you about this one other horse at the barn. I don’t expect I’ll ever be asked to ride him. He is, I swear, horse eye candy. He’s the best looking horse you’ve ever seen in your life, and he can move too. He’s a big warmblood and has mostly been used as a hunter. Do you remember in high school how you thought some people were “cute couples”, and how maybe you hoped you and somebody else would be a “cute couple”? Well, when I walk him in and out to his field, that’s what I think. “Cute couple.” He’s so far outa my league.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I rode Bart not long after lunch. He's going to a horse show next weekend and his momma is away for this weekend so keeping him going and nice is important. But not messing him up is important too. So nothin' fancy and nothin' complicated.

He's a nice horse. Maybe not as under himself as one would want. As always, I free walked him several times around the arena. He did not look at the "scary end" at all. Later in the trot his neck would raise a bit but nothing more there. I used a bounce pad under the cantle and I think that helped a bit. I'm not sure if I've got the stirrup length right still. Not too long, not too short. I felt like I was able to sit up nicely but one never knows that really unless one has photos or a witness.

After free walk I brought him together and continued walking, shortening and lengthening and doing some leg yields. At first when I asked him to step up more, he wanted to trot but then he got what I wanted. At the trot my first concern was to have some freedom forward and he did. At the same time, he stayed nicely round except for some lookie at the scary end circle but he would go right back to work. I kept him on various 20M circles for the most part and tried to trot enough to make myself breathe hard. I know this is a sad commentary on my out-of-shape-ness.

Back to free walk then. Then bringing him together and asking for spirals first in walk, then in trot. In trot I'd keep him on the inside circle for a few rounds because those smaller circles really ask him to step under himself, then we'd spiral back out. I had some trouble keeping the rhythm -- he would slow. What he did not do was pop his shoulder which was nice. We did that a couple of times both directions, changing direction by going down the long side then across the diagonal to give him that forward headspace.

At that point my helper showed up to work and I had to stop for a few minutes to let her know what needed doing and to talk with her mom and that was enough to make me forget the rest of what I'd been thinking I'd do next. I'd meant to do stretchy circles and serpentines. What I did instead was a series of transitions, just walk to trot to walk, but focusing on accuracy of placement and quality of transition.

He was actually breathing a little hard when we quit -- probably as much as I was. Boy, is he fun.

Friday, September 18, 2009

smoke from a distant fire

"Make the work easier than the resistance." Kay Meredith

Yes yes yes.

I mean, really, that's just the other side of giving, rewarding, reinforcing, and yet . . .

And yet it is partly about demanding more of yourself, not just your horse.

I've been to the beach, to the outer banks. This is the first part of it for me to write about. On the way home, Cielo and I stopped to see my old teacher Kay Meredith and her apprentice Rebeca Nelles work Ritmik, a Dutch Warmblood mare, and not only work her but do her very first steps of passage and piaffe, as well as introduce ones.

Kay was so incredibly hospitable, talked, taught, shared, showed us around, introduced us to all the horses.

And when we left all I could think was, "How do you get to be Rebecca?" I don't really have ambitions that big . . . and yet I do too. What I mean by that is that I'd love to know how far I can go, to push it a bit, but I acknowledge I'm older, inexperienced, and might have some commitment issues. And that is beside of having no money to do any of it with.

How do I get that job? And how do I ride under instruction no less than once a week? And how and how and how?

I don't know how. But I would not have thought there was any way I could get to the beach either. I would not have thought I would find the job I have, the boss I have, the opportunities I do have.

I will tell you, I lovelovelove Kay's hardassness. I mean, she was generous with the praise but there were no excuses for the work either. I often have no patience with people who I don't think are hard enough on themselves, who do not demand much of themselves. At the same time, I am not a perfectionist and do not admire it. Maybe that is even part of what I like about riding . . . that there is always room for improvement, to push a bit more (even when pushing means being absolutely still).

The ambition is for Ritmik to be doing the small CDI tour in 2010. They have a gelding they hope to do the big CDI tour with. If I had an ambition, I would say it would be to ride at fourth level in ten years. And I would like my business to be the horses.

And isn't Kay beautiful! She looked and moved like a dancer! Years and years ago I saw a woman at a horse show. Her back was to me and she had a long iron-grey braid down her back and a strong body and practical clothes and boots and I thought, I want to be like that -- thinking of it as when I grew older. Now I see Kay. Yes, I want to be like that.

rant: We need real images of real women, strong, not airbrushed, not costumed and painted, real women to really be instead of images of pretense to pretend to be. Costumes are what you wear when you lack character. Just sayin'.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Natasha is Cielo's daughter's horse -- an older Arab type mare. So put older and Arab and mare together and what do you get? Seriously, she's a very nice little horse -- moves very nicely, obviously loves her girl, is obviously loved back.

Cielo and daughter had just "kidnapped" me and taken me to their house where they promptly changed into riding gear and we headed out to the barn. I could not, at that moment, find my camera because Cielo had hidden that in her bedroom. I waited and watched and enjoyed the ambiance while daughter then mother rode, wondering if I'd get to catch a little ride or not, wondering if I'd broach the subject or not. Her daughter knows nothing about me and it is her horse, but Cielo did ask her daughter if I could ride and while I didn't actually *hear* her daughter answer, I did mount up. I think daughter was asking mother if it would really be all right for me to ride.

I didn't do much because I could sense daughter's nervousness. I walked and tried to get her to give me her head. She was simply having none of that, and I didn't want to sit there and absolutely insist (remembering when I rode Star and asked him to give me his head and you know, eventually he did) because I'm asking at that point for something that this horse is not asked for, etc. etc.

So then I asked for a trot. Like I said, she moves really nicely. She doesn't, however, bend at all. And she's not too responsive to leg pressure either. Ask her to bend to the inside and she steers in that direction, period. Ok. So we just happily trotted a couple of times in each direction around the arena and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Friday, September 4, 2009

trail ride -- Shay

It was two blessed hours in the saddle. Me and LoriBeth and Pogo and Shay. She’s got this nice Crosby that I ride him in. Everyone seems so cautious -- “would you feel more secure in a western saddle?” and “would you rather ride in the tom thumb than the egg butt?” Gawd, give him to me bareback in a halter! Ok, maybe that’s too extreme, but seriously.

Seriously I don’t think I could ever teach a kid to ride, or even an adult rank green beginner. My advice has always been, get a horse (pony) that’s broke and probably old and get on it and ride, preferably bareback. When you can stay on without hitting his back or banging his mouth, come back for lessons. No wonder no one pays me for this stuff! But you’ll never figure out how to stay on if sometimes you don’t. You can’t learn to dance by mincing carefully down the hallway. As my daughter said after we’d jumped off the canopy of the steamboat, “I had that moment of insanity and just jumped!” Yes. That. Except never stupidly. Never with your eyes closed or without your helmet on. People get all tied up on one or the other and it isn’t one or the other . . . it is all.

So anyway, we only walked because Shay has no shoes. But he seemed fine honestly. We had one good shy, with both horses -- I think it was a bird in a bush right beside the trail. It was a good hard shy on Shay’s part to where I really expected him to take off but to his eternal credit, he did not move another muscle.

The temperature was perfect, the weather beautiful, we had the trail nearly to ourselves, the lake was glass smooth and reflected perfectly the mountains and sky, the company was marvelous. It is so nice when people will ask you to go riding and then bring you a horse to ride too!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

on the question of dedication

When I asked you how you went from someone who was an adult before the first time he’d ever ridden a horse to a USDF bronze medalist and sought after clinician, you said (not without some modesty), “Well, I brought something to it to begin with, some talent.” Yeah, I get that. You can teach people to be relatively safe on a horse but you cannot teach them that feel, to know what to do from their gut, to notice the unnoticeable minutia that gives the horseman the idea of what to do next. Then you said, “And it requires some dedication,” and you told a story about how you worked ten hour days then drove 3 hours one way to ride for an hour and talk for two then drive back and work again, doing that twice a week, in the winter.

And that story, it made me cry. I can’t do that. More, I don’t want to do that. I must needs have something left for my family, something of me left for them. All for one; one for all. I cannot short my family. I understand dedication, and I appreciate dedication, and I feel like I am dedicated and willing to make sacrifices (and I know my family is behind me) but there is a limit there and in the end, family comes before even horses.

And frankly it becomes difficult to get any riding in at all when there are 18 stalls to clean on top of the other regular work of keeping the barn running. It is great for the barn, good for job security, sucky for getting a ride in. That’s what happened to me Sunday and Monday and Wednesday.

So, that’s where I am, trying to figure out how to work it all out. I don’t believe much in “balance”. I do believe that there comes a point where it (everything) becomes possible, or there’s another option that hasn’t developed itself, or something. Just keeping the eyes open to see it and the mind open to recognize it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

second chances

I’m not much of a “second chance” sort of girl. I don’t think that you “get over” stuff, or “put something behind you and get on with your life”, or get forgiven -- not of something really serious without real changes in behavior proven over time anyway. I find it easiest to talk about in gardening metaphors . . . if you were told not to water the potatoes and you did anyway and they rotted, that’s what you get, rotted potatoes (not forgiveness); but if you plant a crop sequentially every two weeks then you provide yourself the best chance of having a good abundant crop continuously and if one or more of those planting fails, so what (no forgiveness needed).

So maybe what I’ve done is planted seeds sequentially but when it appears unbidden in my mind it is, “this is my second chance”. I never ever thought I’d have a second chance. I thought I’d blown my chance and that was that. I got a lot out of it -- I got to think about who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live and do that (and find out what the limits of that were). My life was certainly far from over, but I didn’t “put it behind me”, that’s for sure. I was too determined not to repeat the mistakes. In spite of all that determination, I certainly can see the character flaws that led to those mistakes, still. And there was always the thing that was missing.

And then there was the day I saw the ad for this job. And since then the struggles to not want more. Not so much a struggle really, but still something missing, something that I have no words for. And then more opportunities, more possibilities. And when it appears unbidden in my mind, it is as “this is my second chance.” And usually along with that thought come tears. I am so sad I needed a second chance: I am so glad to have one. Both.

I did not believe it was within the field of infinite possibilities, isn’t that funny!? I guess I had knocked it out so long ago. . . . But there is also the law of detachment from specific results -- allowing for the universe to know better than you know.

I am driving horses to a big freaking show, I am showing, and I am getting paid to do it. Yes. I am open to all the second chances in the world of horses.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I suppose you’d have to know my Uncle Noad. But then I suppose you’d have to know me too. And I suppose you’d also have to know my grandfather and my father since they were the ones who brought us together and nourished me and horses in so many ways.

Now, as a kid I wasn’t all that observant -- I didn’t make all that many connections or notice what all was going on. I mean, I noticed “the Sixties” and thought about the philosophical implications of various things but I didn’t notice that Lynn was Ruby’s daughter. As an adult I’ve heard tell that my Uncle Noad had, let us say, a volatile family life. I had no clue. What I knew about Noad was that he was my grandfather’s brother who everyone knew was especially good with horses and he loved me and I loved him.

I suppose you’d have to also know those mountains, know that you drive up Tom’s Creek from Coeburn, along the ridges and finally by Ervington High School to Nora. I once brought a flatland beau to Nora and he thought that was the top of the mountain. It is not. To go to Noad’s, you turned left at Nora and then right up the mountain and I always got the names of the various hollers mixed up, tomahawk or buffalo or something; I could always recognize it. You drove up that road until the pavement stopped. When one of his son’s had wanted to build a house, Noad had given him 1 acre of his land -- the furthest from his house, closest to the road acre. This always tickled me. (This might explain why I have 2000 feet of nearly impassible road to get to my house now.) Past his son’s house and the pavement was Noad’s land. You were at his house when you came to the end of the road.

Just before his house and above the road on the left side was a barn. On this day, this is where my father, his father, Noad and I met. It would have been sometime in 1980 or 1981 I think. I had grown up riding gated horses but by this time it had been years and years since I’d been on one. I’d taken to forward seat riding, hunters and jumpers and cross country, and also dressage, and had really never thought about saddle seat although heck, we never road in those flat saddles anyway but in western saddles. We never let the hooves overgrow for exaggerated action either. So on this day Noad brought his two saddle horses into this barn and he and I tacked them up in their western saddles. I was always up to ride anything, any style, anytime, and I that is still very much the way I am. We mounted and Noad led the way.

I don’t remember that I particularly knew that we were going to go riding, just that I’d been invited to go see Noad. I didn’t know where we’d go. I just went along. When we first picked up a slow rack I realized just how long it had been since I’d done this and it took me awhile to adjust -- to sit back, to let the motion flow through me. I’m sure we talked about stuff but at the same time I doubt we talked about anything; for Noad and for me, being together and being on the horses was enough, was everything we wanted and so we could easily just be. Eventually my body remembered how to sit into the horse and let it move on.

We reached the end of the trail and turned around. When we got back to the flattest, smoothest part of the trail, Noad started letting his horse out. Since he was nearing 80 years old at that time and I was about 20, he’d taken the horse with more training and I was on the slightly greener horse. I asked my horse to step out and he did. Noad and I were both grinning big time as we let them rack on, racing but not too seriously. When the trail narrowed again, we pulled them up and laughed out loud at how much fun that was to do and the horses blew and chomped and tossed their heads showing their high spirits too.

When we got back to the barn, there was my dad and my Dad-da (pronounced dadaw) waiting for us and matching our grins. We dismounted and led them back into the barns and Noad said to his brother, “You put that girl on your worst horse and she’ll still out ride you.” And my Dad-da’s blue eyes twinkled and my father’s hazel eyes did too and Noad and I untacked our horses in all our bow-legged glory.

It was perhaps my proudest moment ever.

It is what I want now.

Now, again. To relax into what I know and do best. To have opportunities appear from what appears to me to be out of the blue and to embrace them.

I will not be discouraged by the damning of faint praise (“you did well on the straight parts of the test”). I will not be discouraged by snipes (“no one is going to pay you to ride her”). I will not be discouraged by snide remarks (“I don’t know if she held her pinkie out right or not but she’s not committing suicide so she must have done ok”). I will simply not be discouraged.

I am so glad to be back at a barn, back with horses. I still cannot believe I did without them for twenty years. But yes, I want more. I want my life back, my whole life, without giving up the life I have now.

There. I’ve said it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Bart Monday

I rode fairly early as I didn't have anywhere to dump manure until someone came to uncouple the bush hog and then hook the spreader back up. So I did the chores, filled a couple wheelbarrows, and then rode. Cheryl rode Casey at the same time.

Bart was a good boy, just pleasant really to be around. I walked him long first a couple times each direction around the entire arena and nothing at all bothered him . . . not the "butterfly end" or the partly mowed dressage arena area or anything. He kinda wanted to walk toward Casey but that was all of his "distraction". Then I put him together and asked him to walk, asking him to shorten and lengthen some, then working in some leg yields. He's really nice on the leg yields.

I did better than last time asking him to trot, in that when I asked he did. Lisa says I over-think it and I think that is especially true in lesson situations -- I want to make it good and I try too hard. So I asked him to trot and he did. We mostly just trotted 20m circles then into circle serpentines (if that term makes sense -- not just doing the serpentine but doing circles to make sure I've got the bend and to steady everything up and make the changes further in between). I very may well not have had him completely on the bit -- I say that because in our lesson Lisa would tell me "He's not on the bit yet" a good bit when I thought he was. And in our trotting yesterday, he was a good bit more forward and energetic than he was in our lesson. I liked that energy and frankly didn't want to bottle it up too much. So it felt like he had good connection but it might not have been "enough". I'm actually glad to get to ride him a bit and then get back to a lesson so that I have some experience to feel from to then draw from in the lesson . . . . He is so nicely sensitive to seat in downward transitions and I thought did them nicely. We didn't work too hard but he had a saddle mark and my legs felt it and we had a lot of fun!

He was going forward so much more nicely than the other times I've ridden him, and personally I think forward is prerequisite for much collection, has to ride into the bridle, etc. Although all of it is always give and take, get a little here then work somewhere else for awhile then come back here again . . . mostly I just thought he felt good. When I was riding him before, and really in my lesson with Lisa too, it was frustrating how little he would GO forward. He's got so much in him and sometimes so little of it comes out. I've wondered if it wouldn't do him good to go gallop some cross country! But on Monday, that's not what I felt from him, that non-forwardness, but a willingness. Yes, I think willingness is the perfect word. And it was very nice.

He did get his tums treats before the ride and a bit of grass after . . .

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tullamore Under Tutelage

Writing this after the fact.

I rode Tully on Sunday under Lisa's instruction. It was my second ride on her . . . the first being a treat for my birthday. Tully was only begun under saddle this year so she is green. She is a big Gypsy and I really like her. She has a pony streak to her but you can get along with her . . . you just have to be willing to listen to her opinion because she has one.

Tully can flat out move but her greenness gives her an almost stutter in her movement so that I felt like I was all over her trotting. She is just learning to canter under saddle and I did not go there with her . . . yet. And I learned this: I evidently ride much better to the left than to the right. To the right, my right shoulder drifts forward, I lean inside . . . I need to consciously pull that shoulder back, back back. I must also work on being steady with that outside rein.

For a young and big calm green horse, she is surprisingly sensitive to leg and moved off well in leg yields . . . while I am still trying to work on my timing and balance and all that. But the combination of her not wanting to bend to the right and me not being as effective in that direction . . . well.

To my relief, Lisa told me later in the day that I'd done a good job with her. I had felt all over her, but then also I do feel like I have a good feel of the horses still and I felt that especially with her.