Sunday, November 30, 2008

Back in the saddle

The property was bulldozer-free yesterday, and Willow and I had a successful ride. She was fine, and other than not being able to sit the trot, I was fine. We cantered some, and she was nice and relaxed.

One funny discovery -- as I was tacking up, when I pulled the saddle cover off my saddle, I saw that the stirrups were tied up for lungeing. I asked Sue, who had tacked Willow off for me following the accident, if she had tied them up for some reason. She said, no, that they were already tied up when she took the saddle off. So I guess at some point following my unplanned dismount, before I realized I was just too woozy to get back on, I had decided I was going to lunge Willow. I have no memory of making that decision, or of tying up the stirrups.

Everyone at the barn said they've started wearing their helmets again :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

OK, guess I'll start wearing my helmet again

About twenty minutes into our schooling session today, Willow bolted, alternating high speed galloping with crowhopping. I stayed aboard for two circuits around the arena, but she finally managed to throw me into the wall. I don't really blame her; not too far away there were two bulldozers lifting dug-up tree stumps and dumping them into a dump truck. It was noisy, with an extra-loud CLANG! every four or five minutes. Willow had been spooking with every clang, but she had also been coming back to me, or so I thought. Sometimes she is very deceptive about just how much tension she is harboring.

I hit the wall first with my hip and right arm, and then with my head (which I was trying really hard to protect, but I just hit too fast). I think I was out for a few seconds, and then I sat up quickly to make sure Willow wasn't galloping straight at me. She wasn't -- just passaging and blowing at the far end of the arena. I was way woozy, so I laid on my back in the dirt for awhile. Then I got up slowly (ow) and made my way to Willow, who seemed relieved to see me, stopped passaging, and walked over to me. I had a strong urge to get back on, but I kept having white-out conditions behind my eyeballs, so I called it quits and we went back to the barn. Luckily some friends were there, so they tacked Willow off and took me to the emergency room. I'm sure that's just what they wanted to do on their day off.

Diagnosis: mild concussion and two spectacular hematomas. Lessons learned: don't overface your young horse with bulldozers and clanging. And, wear your helmet, which I will start doing again, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, as the doc cleared me to ride if I'm able to clamber up into the saddle.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A couple videos

Pretty impressive.

Pretty funny.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Zoot suit riot

I can die happy now. I got to see the Cherry Poppin' Daddies live. I absolutely adored this band during the late 1990s, when the neo-swing movement was at its peak. I was taking ballroom dance lessons at the time, including swing, so we danced to CPD music all the time. I didn't know until after I moved to Eugene that the band is from here!

They played the WOW Hall, another great intimate Eugene venue. The crowd was wild for them. You could really feel the love running both ways. The front man, Steve Perry (no, not that Steve Perry), was born to lead this band. To call him manic doesn't begin to describe his stage presence. They finally had to tape his earpiece to his head to keep it from flying off.

I was lamenting the fact that I didn't have a swing dance partner to bring, but it wouldn't have worked anyway, because there was such a crush of humanity that partner dancing wasn't possible unless you moved into the hall. I enjoyed checking out some of the guys in the audience who were dressed to the nines, fedoras, zoot suits, chains, wingtips, and all. The swing scene is one of the few places where the guys can actually outdress the girls.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The hook brings you back

I saw Blues Traveler live last night. What a great show! They were at the McDonald Theatre, which is a fairly intimate venue. If you don't mind being in the crush, which I didn't, you can get pretty much as close as you want to the stage. John Popper was liberally throwing out harmonicas, and if I'd been willing to get aggressive, I probably could have had me one.

Popper looks like he has slimmed down some, which is so good, because he had heart surgery awhile back. Alas, he still smokes like a chimney. What he's able to do on a harmonica is unreal. Apparently he doesn't need to breathe. The band was tight, tight, tight. I do wish the guitarist would chop off that mullety thing he's got going on.

The crowd was on fire--dancing wildly to anything and everything, even the new stuff no one had heard before. They closed out the main set with "Hook" and just about blew the roof off. (Such an achingly beautiful song musically, with such biting, cynical lyrics.) Popper seemed genuinely gratified by the band's Eugene reception. He must not realize that once the rain starts, we have nothing else to get excited about.

Tonight, I'm off to see the Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Who needs food for Thanksgiving? I have a cornucopia of music instead. My only regret re: tonight is that I know how to swing dance, but I have no dance partner for the show :(

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Glimmers of a grown-up dressage horse

Here's a video of Willow and me from today. I'm ever so pleased. Yes, there's still oodles to work on, but I think we've made a lot of progress in the past couple of months. Willow doesn't look like a training-level horse anymore.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Living here under this rock

OK, so apparently I've been living under a rock, because yesterday was the first time I ever heard of lolcats, aka Icanhazcheezburger? It's a blog containing pictures of cats with captions. The captions are garbled English/chatspeak. I usually think of cats as highly intelligent and sly, so there's something very funny about the unguardedness of the captions.

Of course, if you've got lolcats, ya gotta have loldogs, too, aka IHasAHotdog! I like cats perfectly fine, but at heart I'm a dog person, so I really enjoy loldogs.

Less obviously, if you have lolcats and loldogs, you also have to have lolwalrus lolrus. This picture is the beginning of the saga:

Now, why does that make me laugh every single time I look at it? And the saga continues:

I think I'm going to have a sad dream about that walrus

Nobody has built a good lolhorses site yet. I did find these two examples that I liked:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Willow's new 'do

This is the first time I've ever had Willow in a cool climate two winters in a row. Last winter she hardly got fuzzy at all. This winter, she has turned into a woolly mammoth. For the past week, after every ride she has ended up drenched and steaming. She soaks her cooler right through and still isn't dry enough to put away.

So today I gave Willow her first clip ever. She was a champion and didn't even blink when I turned the clippers on. Instead, she cocked a leg and dozed. I decided to go with a trace clip since I only have one lightweight blanket for her. I was way out of practice clipping, but it didn't turn out too bad. I'm headed back to the barn this evening to ride. I hope the clip makes a big difference!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I won't vs. I can't

Isn't that one of the eternal dressage questions? When the horse acts up, is she saying, "I won't," or "I can't"? (Some horses are saying, "Screw you," but I'm lucky that with Willow that's really never the case.)

The last eight weeks have been all about playing with rein length while maintaining straightness and impulsion. (An interesting aside: Impulsion comes before straightness on the training scale, but Wolfgang always questioned the order, because you can't have true impulsion without first having straightness. That is, if the horse is traveling akimbo, any "impulsion" created escapes.) So, in other words, Willow and I have been working on shortening the frame without losing the forward, riding front to back being a cardinal sin.

Some days Willow is quite willing to stay relaxed on a shorter rein, and other days it causes varying levels of tightness and unhappiness. Which brings me back to my original question. This is where having an experienced trainer is so helpful. I'm struggling with figuring out just how hard to push when Willow lodges a complaint. If the complaint translates as "I won't," pushing is the right thing to do. But if she's saying "I can't," pushing is very much the wrong thing to do.

When I bought Willow, I figured I could bring her along to around second level on my own, but then I'd need help. Looks like my prediction was spot on. So, starting in the next couple of weeks, I'll be taking a lesson every other week from Leslie, the assistant trainer at my barn. I'm quite excited to start getting regular feedback again. I'm also excited to get to see someone else ride Willow!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The faucet is now ON

This fall, November 1 was the day the faucet turned on. October was gorgeous, with day after day of sunshine. Beginning November 1, and for the foreseeable, we're looking at rain and then more rain. Now, I'm not a huge fan of rain, and after two years in the valley I still can't get used to monsoon season, but I'm even less of a fan of cold, and in my book 50 degrees is not cold, so I'm not going to complain too much.

Willow has been back in business for three days now, and she's steadily improving and losing the 'tude. The left-side shenanigans of a few weeks ago have now shifted entirely to the right side (traveling haunches-in, or leg yielding wildly out of the circle). Whenever a problem I'm having with a horse flip-flops like that, I count it as progress. And tonight I discovered that, as usual, most of the problem is actually my fault. I realized that as soon as Willow started to travel crooked, I pitched forward ever so slightly. So I focused on sitting back and driving with my seat, and was able to straighten Willow out almost instantly. She's really sensitive, and apparently even the slightest feeling of me leaning forward really confuses her. One more mystery solved.

If you haven't voted early, make sure you get out and vote tomorrow! Willow gets tomorrow night off while I watch election results. Whichever way things go, history will be made.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Willow comes out of retirement

Today I was finally back in the saddle after almost two weeks of utterly neglecting Willow due to my mom's visit. Willow started off great, but then became increasingly difficult and mareish. I'm sure she had decided I had retired her and really resented having to go back to work. Poor little miss. I waited out her moodiness, got five minutes of decent work, and called it a day. Nobody likes going back to work after a two-week vacation.

If you are a horsey type located in the Eugene/Springfield area, you're in luck! A new tack shop has opened: Tack N Up. It's on the north side of the 700 block of Q Street in Springfield. I visited today and came home with a pair of full-seat breeches and a pair of stubby spurs, which I will be introducing to Willow this month. It's a big store with a good selection representing several disciplines. They also have dog and cat supplies. Plus, there are five very friendly canines serving as greeters. The black lab cross joined me in my dressing room.

The excavation next door continues. They have completely uncovered the truck, and behind it a shed is peeking out, too. I can also now actually see the lawn on the south side of my house. It used to be a complete tangle of overgrowth from the neighbor's rainforest.