Blog .:. June 2010 9 Entries

Oh hello, Jules Verne. Fancy meeting you here.

30 June 2010 Comments

Recently, I went out to dinner with someone and she gave me some news that left my jaw dropping on the floor. I still have to periodically pick it back up. It just boggles my mind.

And it was only the latest in several months’ worth of drama events (not all, I assure you, from the same source).

At one point, I had to write my non-horsey friends with some of the details, to find out if my perspective was slipping and I was becoming part of the problem and not part of the solution. They have not written back yet. About anything. Erm. Granted, every so often we do these six week silences, but—drama alert!—I found the timing of this silence a suspicious confirmation that they are afraid to touch my drama with a ten foot pole, in case it’s contagious.

The fact that I found the timing suspicious made me decide I have, indeed, slipped. Not off the deep end. Off the continental shelf, perhaps. Chatting with Jacques Cousteau. 20,000 leagues deep, hanging with Jules Verne. Journeying to the center of the bloody earth.

Since then, not really through anything I did, the drama has dissipated. Thank god.

Although I kind of get where the drama comes from—horses are expensive, and we all get a lot of time and money invested into doing things a particular way. We don’t want to know that others disagree with our way, because that would imply that we wasted all that time and money. Therefor we are ferociously protective of Our Way. Interestingly, people seem to be able to tolerate people who do things Not Like Us At All a whole lot better than we tolerate People Who Do Things Almost Like Us But Pick Out the Left Hind Foot Before the Left Front Foot (or whatever minor, inconsequential thing is feeding today’s drama).

And yet, I kind of don’t get it. I went to a women’s college and lived in dorms for four years with hundreds of hormonal women surrounding me, and we never had drama like horse people have drama. I am pretty sure that if someone could figure out how to harness the elemental stable drama element, we could solve the world’s energy problem six times over. Controlling surges would probably be an issue for a while, but I think my experiment with my friends shows that running especially hot currents through an outside current will effectively kill things. Friendships, perhaps, but also some of the drama.

Ah. I have just found my solution. I will start patenting that idea, and then I will be too busy for drama. Horse drama isn’t going anywhere—I know better than to ask for ideas to minimize it, because I know how to minimize it. And even I can’t avoid it—so if I’m going to have to deal with it, I might as well profit from it.

I wonder if I need to know anything about electricity when I submit the patent? Is a drawing with an arrows labeled “drama in” and “electricity out” pointing to opposite ends of a pipe sufficient, do you think? Must go research…

Tagged: Drama Llamas, Jacques Cousteau, Jules Verne

Show Nerves Poster Child

27 June 2010 Comments

We went to a schooling show this weekend—low key, no pressure, no worries. Right?

Yeah, right.

This is me we’re talking about.

Warmup? Fabulous. We’re riding on clouds. We head out to the show ring when I’m two horses out. I watch the current horse in the ring, mumble an excuse, and retreat back to warmup.

Ah. My brain. I knew I left it somewhere. I put it back in, and suddenly I can remember how to breathe again. Ok. No worries.

Back out to the ring we go, as the competitor before me starts their test. I stare fixedly into the distance. A friend comes over to distract me. Apparently, I look a little tense. That’s a nice way of saying I look like someone has just delivered a note that says North Korea is training missiles on my home, and would I like to prepare a suitable response? It may just be a Training level test to you, but it’s a war zone to me.

In reality, I’m trying to remember if breathing is one of those autonomous body functions and, if so, why I appear to have stopped. The other rider finishes her test, and I wander to A. The photographer starts talking to me. I suspect this was an act of kindness on her part: make the rider talk, before she faints from lack of oxygen.

The ride was not fantastic. The score was not fantastic. I got a blue ribbon, but that’s what happens when you’re the only one in the class.

However—I remembered the test. I almost went off course once, but caught myself in time. There were moments when I was able to bring myself together and ride a bit, instead of steering the horse with the reins and hoping we made it from letter to letter.

And that, frankly, I count as a huge success.

I knew and expected that show nerves would kill me, so even moments of regrouping is a positive sign. All I wanted from the show was a low key non disaster, and I got that. I mean: the ride itself was kind of a disaster, but I only left my brain in the warmup ring. I didn’t lose it entirely. I think there’s something to be said for that.

People were commiserating with me about the score, but this weekend was emphatically not about the score. I needed to get back in the show ring, and I needed to know that it was not a big deal. I accomplished that much, and the warmup really was fantastic.

What I need now is more of the same, until I stop worrying about the judge at C and start carrying over the relaxation from the warmup to the show ring. I’m sure that will come with time. And, perhaps, with a properly timed beer before my classes…

Tagged: Horse Shows, Horses, North Korea, Riding, Riding - Dressage

I now possess the wisdom of the ancients

23 June 2010 Comments

Today was Chiropractor Trip #2. Trip #1 did not go so well, which is to say it didn’t go at all.

Trailer loading this time went much smoother, and we made it to the chiropractor’s without incident. The mare’s owner warned them ahead of time that the mare had been acting out and they discussed options in case the mare objected to any adjustments that might need to be made.

After getting some history and doing a visual look-over, the vet went over to the mare and started massaging her head, talking quietly to her all the while.

I have seen college students high on pot and holding a full plate of brownies on their laps who looked more tense than the mare did. The vet could have asked her to jump through flaming hoops of fire and she would have, as long as she could have a face massage at the end of it.

For the rest of the session, she stayed relaxed, with big, soft eyes. Even when she got a little worried, she looked to the vet for reassurance. Beyond that initial conversation with the owner, sedation never came up. The vet was the mare’s new BFF forever after that head massage. Every once in a while, she’d steal a glance at her owner and I: See this? See what she’s doing? THIS is the life I deserve. I am staying Right. Here. Forever.

Owner and I called a timeout and huddled in a corner. She has a new BFF. She’s stubborn enough that she might not come home with us. What if we learn the jedi facial massage thing? Would that be enough? How much will we have to bribe the vet to teach us that?

Fortunately we didn’t have to resort to bribery and the vet showed us the secret to the head massage at the end. After due consideration, the mare decided that we knew the most important bit and that she would come home with us after all; she hopped on the trailer like a pro.

I looked around online to see if I could find a diagram that shows where the pressure points are, but I can’t. I am heartily afraid of being sued—although I have no idea why anyone would bother; the only thing I own are massive student loans—so I’m not going to try to describe it. However, even for people who are skeptical of massage/chiropractic care for horses, I’d recommend getting someone who knows what they are doing to show you some basic things you can do at home. Apparently not all horses adore the head massage the way this mare does, but if you can find The One True Thing your horse likes… like I said, I think this mare would jump through fire to get this particular massage done.

Heck, she’d probably load on any trailer you pointed her at, if she thought it’d get her this head rub.

It’s like a tailor-made reward for her, and that alone made the appointment worthwhile (says the person who wasn’t paying for the appointment and was just along for the ride).

Tagged: Chiropractor & Massage, Horses, Horses - Ro, Learning Education & Research, Trailering

Lessons in Trailer Loading

20 June 2010 Comments

You learn something new every day.

Today I learned that “The best laid plans of mice and men…” derives from a 1785 poem by Robert Burns, “To a Mouse.”

Yesterday I learned about trailer loading. And not loading.

One of the owners at the barn was taking her horse to the chiropractor/massage person and I was tagging along. As it happens, things were running a little late when it was finally time to load the horse. We led her up to the trailer and she marched right along right up to the point where she… didn’t.

It soon become clear that we were not going to make the appointment. We moved the truck and trailer so that it wouldn’t be in anyone’s way and settled down to the day’s new task: teaching the mare that she was, in fact, going to load. With the appointment rescheduled, we had all day to work on this.

Enter Awesome Bystander.

If you have any doubt about the state of humanity, allow me to disperse just a little of it.

Understand: we’re in Texas. It’s 90 degrees and wicked sunny. Awesome Bystander offered to help anyway.

She quickly and fairly established a few rules: mare would stay lined up straight with the trailer and not swing her rump around. Mare would step forward once when asked. Mare would stop when asked. Mare would back when asked.

Everything would go really well until mare was at the trailer (it was a step up); she’d walk right up to the trailer but didn’t want to put a foot in. Awesome Bystander kept lightly asking her to step up by tapping just behind the girth with a dressage stick, and rewarding the smallest positive movements from the mare. Every once in a while they backed away from the trailer, reestablished go/halt/back, and tried again. This allowed her to reposition the mare (who sometimes got too close to the trailer to lift her front legs without banging them against the floor) and to relax the mare (hey, here was a task that she absolutely understood and could do correctly!).

No beating, no punishment, just calm, patient insistence and a reward as soon as the mare thought about stepping on the trailer. Best of all, Awesome Bystander explained what she was doing and why each step of the way and made a few recommendations to the owner as well. And, eventually, the mare loaded. It was pretty much that anti-climactic.

Awesome Bystander then unloaded the mare. She and the owner talked for a few minutes, and she drove off into the sunset the Texas midday sun. The owner is, believe me, planning a suitable thank-you gift for her.

The owner then loaded the mare back up. It took a few minutes, but only a few. We shut the trailer and went for a drive around the property, unloaded the horse, and let her graze for a while. Then I loaded her in the trailer—the key here being that we 1) wanted her to load several times and 2) wanted her to load for different people.

I know the owner intends to work on loading intensively for the next little while to be sure the mare is solid on it. The chiropractor/massage appointment has been rescheduled for later this week and hopefully I’ll still be able to tag along (I’ve never been to one, so it should be fascinating).

I apologize for the lack of funny, but I thought it was beyond awesome that someone would spend an hour in the middle of a Texas summer day and help with a loading issue.

Tagged: Chiropractor & Massage, Groundwork, Horses, Horses - Ro, Robert Burns, To a Mouse by Burns, Trailering, United States, United States - Texas, United States - Texas - Houston

A Brief Work-Related Interlude

16 June 2010 Comments

Imagine that you have been told to write a user guide on how to use a vending machine.

You sit down and you provide some background information on what vending machines are, why they are useful, and the sort of business need they fulfill for the company. Then you explain about coins, how to tell a quarter from a nickel, and how to find out how much money is available to put in the vending machine.

Then you explain how to find the item you want to buy and its cost, how to put the money in the machine, and how to make your selection. You even explain how to get your product out of the machine.

It’s a good user guide. It’s not going to take the world by storm, but it does its job.

The vending machine goes out into the world, and your user guide goes with it.

From previous experience, you know that 50% of users will not even think about reading the user guide, but it’s ok because they’re mostly intelligent and will figure things out eventually, possibly after inserting a coin or two into the electric socket just to see what happens. 25% of the users will not read the user guide and will need help, but they’ll ask their friends. This will lead to some isolated incidents where people try to use Canadian quarters because Bob said they could, but a couple rounds of stern memos from upper management will sort that out. None of this is your fault: these scenarios are all covered in the user guide they didn’t read.

10% of users will print out the user guide and place it on their desk. They aren’t going to read it, but upper management might be watching. They are keen, these users. Visibly keen.

Another 10% of users will be seen to pass by the vending machine on a regular basis. They’ll even be seen to stare at it thoughtfully, as if considering a purchase. They don’t actually intend to use the vending machine, because there’s a rain barrel right outside the back door that was good enough for their grandfathers and so it’s good enough for them. They could care less about the user guide. They probably don’t believe in user guides anyway.

4.99% of the users will read the user guide. They will then send in feedbacks that begin with “I read the user guide but…” You cannot help these people. A year from now, they will be sending in feedbacks that say “I hear we have this new machine and it requires… coins? money? I don’t know. I’m confused. I just want a glass of water.”

And at least one user, That Guy, will read the user guide, front to back, and send in a feedback that says, “I read the user guide and it doesn’t explain how I can buy water.”

So you’ll explain about money, and finding and entering your selection, and That Guy will blink slowly and say, “Can you add that to the user guide?”

You’ll say, “You mean, Step 1: Find $1 in coins. Step 2: Insert the coins into the slot marked ‘Coins.’ Step 3: Enter B5 on the alpha-numeric keypad…?”

And That Guy will say, “Yes. But you need to explain all the coin combinations that could make up $1, and then you need to repeat the whole process for diet sodas. And regular sodas. And the fruit juice. And, oh, all of them.”

You can try suggesting a reference table, but it won’t work: That Guy really does want a step-by-step instruction guide for every possible coin permutation for every drink selection.

If That Guy is no one very special in the organization, things may be ok. A carefully worded email to the right manager (“Did you really want us to revise the user guide per That Guy’s request? It will weigh more than the vending machine when we are done, and so will the bill.”) shuts down That Guy fairly quickly.

But sometimes That Guy is the management.

That Guy is the reason some user guides start out: “Arrive at work using your normal mode of transportation, or, if your normal mode of transportation is unavailable, a suitable and safe alternative transportation method. If you have not been hired yet, see Human Resources to inquire as to the status of your application. If you have been hired…”

[This episode of Life’s Mysteries Explained brought to you by the number 6,842, or the number of pages in the theoretical vending machine manual requested by That Guy today. Thankfully, Upper Management interceded and my sanity—and several rainforests—have been preserved.]

Tagged: Writing

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