Blog .:. September 2010 6 Entries

Quick Update

28 September 2010 Comments

Ro has been absolutely brilliant these last few rides. We are getting a fairly consistent rhythm in the trot, instead of speeding up and slowing down like we’re in rush-hour traffic on the highway. She’s also beginning to reach into the contact at the trot and hold it for a few strides, instead of backing off immediately. Her canter is coming along. She’s much weaker on the right hind than the left, but she will pick up the right lead canter if she is balanced and not rushing. We also cantered around the whole arena today instead of sticking to the “safe” end/corner. Pony has the smoothest canter ever, and it’s a blast to ride. She slipped into a hand gallop a couple times, but she responds beautifully to the seat and comes right back. When I ask. Which, I admit, was not right away; who wouldn’t want to gallop around a little on the first real day of fall that we’ve had?

Tagged: Horses, Horses - Ro, Riding

Free to Good Home: One Owner, Lightly Used

21 September 2010 Comments

Ro is irritated.

She could be coming in season. It could be the full moon. She could just be a chestnut mare.

Or I might have cut her mane this weekend, and the other horses may be making fun of her:

Ro would like a new owner, pls thnks.

Tagged: Bad Decisions, Horses, Horses - Ro

In Which Ro Contemplates a Career Change

17 September 2010 Comments

A couple weeks ago, Ro had some time off.

She thought that being a kept woman was awesome. Food, grooming, a little stretch in the round pen, but no actual work. All the hay she could eat. Life was good.

Then the rain stopped and the arena dried up, and she went back to work.

To keep her mind off the injustice, she came into raging, flaming heat. I own the world’s biggest hussy. The geldings next to her were bemused and confused: You keep peeing… are you ok? Maybe it’s a kidney stone. Want me to call the vet? I’m not sure what you want me to do…. The poor girl can’t get no satisfaction.

About the time she came out of heat, I decided I had had it with her mane. I stared at it critically for a while, with Ro edging as far away from me as she could: You look, um, kind of, you know, intense. And I think I would like to be over here for a while, and what are those things in your hand and why are you… OMG! My hair! My hair is on the floor! Why is my hair on the floor?!

Apparently there are rules to cutting manes. Things to do and not do. I never bothered to learn them, because I’ve always lived in the land of civilized manes, where a little pulling and tidying will do ya.

You could say I butchered her mane. You could say it gets a touch warm in Texas in the summer. Same difference.

Ro is horrified. I am trying to decide if I 1) wait six weeks and see if I can salvage it then with some judicious pulling; 2) roach it all; 3) roach it all so it sticks up, and then cut spikes in it.

I mean, if I’m going to roach it, I might as well have fun with it, right?

Ro was on Craig’s List that night, putting up want ads for a new owner.

But today I went out to the barn and all appeared to be forgiven. I brushed her, tacked her up, and headed to the round pen. Lunging day. Muscle building. Side reins. We like to pretend we have a program. We’re in training. We have goals. Probably.

The round pen was occupied, so I considered my options. Arena: busy. Grass: Open. Lunge whip: in the occupied round pen. Dressage whip: available.

I have lunged Ro on the grass before with a dressage whip. She played along and pretended it was a lunge whip. Not ideal, but it worked.

We head back to the barn to pick it up. Ro is still looking bright and interested. She probably knows something I don’t know. Work is busy right now; the dogs hanging out by the arena probably know things I don’t know.

Back on the grass, it occurs to me that since we have done this before, she probably has figured out that the dressage whip is not the lunge whip. I consider the situation and then have her walk on a small circle so that I can reach out and touch her with the whip. She rolls her eyes and flicks an ear at me. Yeah, yeah. You have a whip. You’re the boss. Whatever. Let’s go.

I ask her to trot. She eyes the whip and determines that I have not specified what she is to trot, and starts with a half circle. I wave the whip at her: No cutting in! She eyes the whip and begins cutting in everywhere. What am I going to do about it, she wants to know—throw the whip at her?

Five minutes and some careful negotiation later, she’s trotting a circle. Look, she says, I’m a circus pony. Are you happy now?

I ask her to canter, and as she does, I remember that thing that she knows that I don’t know.

She auditions for a career change: she would like to be a bucking bronco.

I reel her back in and we do some walk/trot transitions while my brain processes the revelation I’ve just had: Ro had yesterday off.

With both our brains back in, we try the canter again. It goes much better this time. She’s loping along, and she’s figured out the uneven terrain thing. While I’m enjoying our success, she’s still contemplating career changes.

She jumps an odd-colored patch of grass: I could be a hunter! A bump in the ground: An eventer! A patch of dirt: A jumper! I don’t even need the obstacles!

Well, that’s great. We can go Grand Prix—the water spreads will be a piece of cake!

Actually, I was very happy about the jumping thing. Maybe one day I really will get to take her to do Wave-At-The-Jumps-As-You-Pass-By eventing.

The round pen eventually opened up, and we went in to get to work. That is, work in Ro’s current career path instead of her wishful thinking career paths.

I put the side reins on. She flicked an ear at me. Really? This is what you want? Side reins? We could be out tearing up the grass some more, you know?

I see her point. I want to get out on trails too. On the other hand, the last time I tried hacking her around the property a little, her heart was thumping so hard in her chest my teeth were vibrating. I put the conversation on hold while we get to the task at hand: lunging. Working. Pretending we have a program.

When we finish, she sighs. I liked being a kept woman better. This working thing is for the birds. Can I at least go back to being a lawnmower?

I don’t know what to tell her. I’ve been asking that question for years—perhaps not the lawnmower bit, but the not having to work for a living bit. No one sympathizes with me. If I have to work, so does she.

She’s probably posting on Craig’s List again: More Food, Less Work. I’ll mow your lawn while you eat lunch and relax in the shade. In return you don’t ask me to trot in silly circles. Everyone’s happy, except my former owner—and she can trot her own darn circles if she likes them so much.

Tagged: Groundwork, Horses, Horses - Ro, United States, United States - Texas

Time to Get Back into (Mental) Shape Again

10 September 2010 Comments

My family is starting another fitness challenge. This is good. I’ve been cruising.

Meanwhile, I’m reading The Know-It-All by A. J. Jacobs.

It’s a post-modern memoir-ish thingy predicated on the idea that he is reading the entire encyclopedia. It’s not a plot-driven novel; each chapter is devoted to a letter of the alphabet and covers facts he discovers and his reactions to them. Along the way you get some plot, but mostly it’s a post-modern collection of observations.

It’s exactly the kind of book I would write if I were ever going to write a book, in fact.

Which is odd, because I’ve never actually finished reading it. I get about to P and grow bored. Every couple of years I pick it up and try again. I’m at G right now, and growing bored. I shouldn’t be, but I am.

On the other hand, I can devour This is not a novel by David Markson in a single sitting. Markson’s book is comprised almost entirely of one-liner facts organized in a free associative manner, with periodic interjections from the narrator, who is confused about what he is writing.

It has even less plot than Jacobs’ book, and it inspired me to go out and buy all his other books. None of which I have read, by the way.

Actually, now I remember what happens—I start reading Jacobs, remember Markson, and abandon Jacobs for Markson.

There is a lesson in here somewhere, but I don’t want to think too hard about it. It probably involves comparing my brain to a shriveled peanut incapable of reading anything more substantial than a one-liner.

So I think that with this family challenge, I’m going to have to work on some sort of mental health challenge. I need to get back into reading something serious. Important. Informative. That focuses on a single topic for longer than one line. Or even two paragraphs.

While I try to figure out exactly how to do that (start with “See Spot Run”?), here are snippets from both Jacobs and Markson, just to make this horse related (or at least equine related):

The more I progress in the alphabet, the more successful I am at stifling that eleven-year-old boy inside of me, the one that still thinks a good Beavis-and-Butt-head-style scatological pun is cause for great joy.

It’s not easy. Just the number of asses alone will tempt even the most evolved mind. I’ve learned about The Golden Ass (a book by a Platonic philosopher), and the Wild Ass’ Skin (a novel by Balzac). I’ve read about the half-ass (a type of mule in Asia) and Buridan’s ass (an animal in a philosophical parable). But it goes way beyond asses. Asses are just the start. You can also take a trip in the river Suck (in Ireland), where you could fish for crappies (a freshwater bass) while you drink some Brest milk (the town in Belarus is known for its dairies). If you’re bored, you can have a stroke-off (while playing bandy, a version of ice hockey) and fondle a bushtit (a small bird). If you’re feeling smart, you might want to argue the impact of Isaac Butt (an Irish leader), or debate the merits of the Four Wangs (Chinese landscape painters), who might have been collected by the Fuggers (an art-loving family). Or else, just take a flying Fokker (a German airplane).

The Know-It-All

Or this from This is not a novel:

Realizing idly that every artist in history—until the Writer’s own century—rode horseback.

For instance Keats doing so beside the Tiber each morning until not long before his death.

George Sand, disdaining sidesaddle on a favorite mare she by chance called Colette.

Or twenty-three centuries earlier Pindar even reassuring readers that there would be horses in heaven.

Or later on (still Markson):

The Reader.
Being Aristotle’s nickname at Plato’s Academy.

A colt that kicks its mother.
Being what Plato personally called him after an early disagreement.

You see? This is the sort of reading I am reduced to. Short, to the point, totally and utterly random.

But not a healthy diet for a brain. Must go find something substantial. I’m definitely thinking “See Spot Run” will be a good starting point.

Tagged: A J Jacobs, Apuleius, Aristotle, Balzac, Belarus, Belarus - Brest, Birds, Books & Reading, David Markson, Donkeys & Mules, Fish, Four Wangs, Fuggers, George Sand, Golden Ass by Apuleius, Horses, Horses - Colette, Ireland, Isaac Butt, John Keats, Know It All by Jacobs, Living & Eating Better, Pindar, Plato, This is not a novel by Markson, Wild Ass Skin by Balzac

A Navigational Comedy of Errors (with maps)

9 September 2010 Comments

When I moved to Houston, my family gave me a GPS.

They were afraid, I suspect, that I’d head out for work one day and end up in Peru. Or Greenland.

Their fears were not totally unjustified. I once got lost in Palmer. Palmer, for those of you who have never been there, has a population of Not Very Many and less streets than letters in its name.

Behold Palmer:

A person who could get lost in Palmer could get lost anywhere. The GPS was sort of a necessity. I will say, in my defense, that at least when I got off the plane I knew I was in Houston, Texas. When I punched the address for my hotel into my GPS, it thought for a long, long time and then told me it would take a week to drive to the hotel, and I would have to pass through Canada. I was halfway to the hotel before the thing realized we were no longer in Alaska.

I had reason to believe, in other words, that I was not hopelessly incompetent when driving. Getting lost in Palmer, I thought, would be the highlight of my navigational Comedy of Errors.

Wrong. So, so wrong.

When I bought Ro, a friend recommended a particular lumber yard for shavings. She told me how to get there. She drew a map. She showed me what everything on the map meant.

All I had to do, I kid you not, was make two right turns.

Got it, I said.

The next day, I set out for the lumber yard, humming We’re going to the wood works and we’re gonna get shaaaavings… we’re going to the wood works of love!

Stuff like that is reason #682 that I decline to sing in public.

An hour later, I texted my friend: There is no lumber yard on Telge.

There was a pause, and she texted back something to the effect of: No, it’s on 2920. Next to the feed store.

A flurry of texts and phone calls later, and I was at the lumber yard.

I blame the episode on my exhaustion (I was burnt out at work, and barely functional out of work). Certainly my friend had done everything she could for me, sort of driving me there herself. And, actually, I had ridden with her to the feed store before. I have no real excuse for being unable to find the lumber yard.

Today I had to go back to pick up more shavings.

No problem. I was confident of the exit: Spring Cypress/Cypress Rosehill.

I got the exit right. I forgot that the road I wanted was Cypress Rosehill, not Spring Cypress. About the time Spring Cypress ended at Telge, I realized I had made the wrong choice.

Anyone else in the world would have thought Hey! Telge! That’s the street the lumber yard is NOT on, but it intersects with the street the lumber yard IS on! (Reference above, about being lost on Telge on the previous attempt to get to the feed store.)

In the end, this is how I got to the lumber yard:

Twice now I have failed to find a place that only requires two right turns to reach. Twice!

This is worse than being lost in Palmer. This is worse than the time I got lost walking down Vesuvius (for all those people who think you can’t get lost going down a mountain, a very kind cab driver somewhere in Italy is still probably regaling his fellow cabbies with stories of the Stupidest American Ever; he would be happy to set you straight on that particular misconception).

Really, the only way I could top this incident would be to get lost driving on a straight line.

I might be tempting fate by saying that kind of thing out loud.

Tagged: Directionally Challenged, Greenland, Italy, Italy - Vesuvius, Peru, United States, United States - Alaska, United States - Alaska - Palmer-Wasilla, United States - Texas, United States - Texas - Houston

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