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.