Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chihuahua-mix puppies!

Huey's owner is fostering two chihuahua-mix puppies. I'm not a fan of tiny dogs, but these two almost make me change my mind. They are just too cute -- and feisty!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Huey gets a tune-up

Trainer Leslie hopped on Huey for a bit at the beginning of my lesson. Nothing like a tune-up from a professional to really get a horse put together! He felt super. Starting Friday I have ten days off from work, so I hope to be able to ride a whole bunch. Rain, rain, stay away.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Lately I've been tooling around Craigslist, toying with the idea of a project horse at some point. Not now, and probably not for at least a year, but it's fun to browse. Today I ran across this unfortunate little guy:

He is described as a gorgeous, two-year-old paint/palomino. Now, I know two is an awkward age for any horse, but seriously? What a bizarre-looking equine.

Haven't been getting on Huey as much since the light changed, but still having fun when I do. My next lesson is Sunday. Only ten more weeks until we start getting our light back!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Huey not cow pony material

After a recent competition, the Oregon Horse Center left the competitive trail course up so people could come school on it. Camilla decided to take Huey (and her friend Jenny brought her mare Hopie along, too). I know nothing about competitive trail events, but from what I could tell after viewing the course, it seems to me it's mostly about the horse being very slow, deliberate, and careful. Huey is none of these things. He was utterly confused about why Camilla didn't just let him jump over everything. At one point in the video he looks at me plaintively, hoping I'll rescue him and put him to work on a twenty meter circle.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hobbit horse

While at the ranch I got to hop aboard a little Friesian/Arab gelding in training named Frodo. He's short -- maybe 14.1? -- but has a big barrel to take up your leg. I don't look as giant on him as I thought I would.

Frodo is my kind of horse! I wanted to tuck him into my carry-on. He's really sensitive and a total worrier. There's an invisible thought bubble over his head at all times that says "OMG!" When he feels a new rider aboard, his first response is to turn into a quivery stress ball. But then he realizes you're not going to make him do anything scary or let the monsters eat him, and he settles. He always wants to rush a bit, so I was working on a slow, steady tempo. Isn't he a cutie pie?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Big dog

I'm at the ranch! Here's Oso, Wolf and Sue's English mastiff. Oso means "bear" in Spanish.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Huey rocks the lateral work

Another fun lesson on Huey! We worked on turn-on-the-haunches, leg yield, shoulder-in, travers, and baby half pass. He's such a sweetheart. I'm really gaining appreciation for the above-and-beyond qualities of an event horse. One day it's: go, go, go, jump, jump, jump! And the next it's: slow down, focus, and bend your body this way and that.

Tomorrow I'm off to the ranch in Blanco! I've got my boots, breeches, helmet, and gloves packed. I should have some pix and/or video to share shortly. Then, on Friday, I fly to Guadalajara for the book fair. The weather in both places looks fantastic: low eighties, sunny, little chance of rain.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

There goes the sun

My Huey-riding schedule has been Sun-Mon-Tues, with the Mon-Tues rides happening after work. With the time change, the sun is now going down at 5:15 (soon to be 4:45), so my usual schedule is now a problem. I think I'm going to try to continue riding on Tuesdays, going in to work very early so I can get off at 3:30. Early mornings and root canals rank about the same in my book, so we'll see if I can pull this off. I really don't want to end up riding just once a week with a lesson here and there.

Lately Huey has started a seasick head-waggling on the right-lead canter. I think he's just trying to avoid really taking contact on the outside rein. I've been asking him to stretch down until the waggling stops, and then slowly bringing him back up. That's been working pretty well. Yesterday I worked on a canter square with him, half-halting the corners on both reins, and that fixed the waggle, too. Whatever gets his nose out in front of the vertical rather than ducking behind is the key. Yesterday we also worked on shoulder-in to travers in canter. At first he wanted to run away, but after a bit he settled and did very well.

Willow has been started over crossrails and is doing well. In about ten days I'm off to Wolf and Sue's ranch in Blanco, TX, for Thanksgiving. It sounds like there'll be some training horses there for me to hop on. Yay! Then, I'm off to the Guadalajara International Book Fair!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A puppy next spring?

I lost my vizsla Marko about 18 months ago. He was my best buddy for 13 years, and actually, he loved pretty much everybody. Here he is with my friend Rachel. He was always a leaner--a "velcro vizsla," as breed enthusiasts call it.

I'm finally feeling ready to consider a vizsla puppy. My other two dogs are rescues, so I feel ok about purchasing a puppy from a breeder. Plus, it's really hard to find rescue vizslas!

A couple nights ago I watched a bunch of vizsla videos on YouTube. The first two here show off what I used to call the "puppy crazies," which vizslas are prone to well into middle age. In the first video, the crazies start at 1:33.

As the first video notes, vizslas are not couch-potato dogs. They need a lot of exercise until they're at least seven or eight years old.

All that tearing around is tiring, and when vizslas zonk out, they really zonk out. It's like they're drugged. Their bones turn to rubber, and they let it all hang out.

Here's Marko's version of the above.

I'm thinking mid-to-late spring. My mother and I may be going to France, so it would be after that. Summertime with a baby vizsla sounds like heaven. I'm already starting to research breeders.

Monday, October 25, 2010

October lesson on Huey

Here's my lesson on Huey from a couple weeks ago. Shoulder-in and travers are improving; he's not tilting his head as much. Towards the end of the video you'll hear the inappropriate comedy stylings of Camilla, and then Flash offers his opinion of the proceedings, dropping a load of manure so stinky I could smell it at the other end of the arena. "Oh my god!" says trainer Leslie. It was that bad.

Since my last post, I've learned a bit more about Adelinde Cornelissen -- that she uses rollkur in her training and that she was eliminated from the 2010 WEG for blood in her horse's mouth. Her article in Dressage Today implied that she rides with too much hand; these latest revelations seem to support that. I wish Dressage Today wouldn't promote this type of rider.

I'm off to visit Wolfgang and Suzanne's ranch for Thanksgiving. Suzanne said they'll likely have several training horses for me to ride. Yay! The day after Thanksgiving I leave for the Guadalajara Book Fair. I've never been to Mexico, and I don't speak Spanish. It'll be an adventure.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Say what?

Here are a couple puzzling excerpts from Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen's article "Clarity & Speed Control" in the latest Dressage Today:

When I was a Pony Club rider, they taught me that when you slow down you should also use your leg, however, in a car, you don't give gas and brake at the same time, and I think it should be the same with your horse. To slow down, don't use leg.

And then a bit later:

To shorten the stride, I use my hands and no leg.

I have to wonder if that's really what she meant to say. Maybe the article is a translation, and the translation didn't quite convey what she meant? Because isn't slowing down your horse by using all hand and no leg the epitome of riding front to back? Slowing down is nothing more than a series of half halts, and my feeling is half halts should never consist of only hand. Of course you don't apply hand and leg at exactly the same time, but you certainly do balance any restraint in front with the creation of activity behind via the seat and leg. Cornelissen is a Dutch Olympian--obviously no slouch--so I suspect if she were asked to eloborate on these comments the takeaway might be a little more complicated than the excerpts above. I will be perusing future letters columns to see if any other DT readers had the same reaction I did. What do you all think?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lesson on Baby Huey

Here's video from Thursday night's lesson, in which we worked on getting Huey to stretch up and out toward the bit. No more curling behind the vertical! I'm really pleased with how Huey looks towards the end. We have another lesson this coming Thursday.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Baby Huey back in business

After one week of handwalking and another week of very light work on mostly straight lines, Huey is back in regular work. He felt super today. I schooled a bit of walk-canter-walk at the end, and he was totally into it. I think we'll be lessoning with Leslie on Thursday; won't she be impressed. Maybe I'll school a few flying changes before then as well and really wow her.

Willow arrived in Dubach, Louisiana, yesterday to begin work with an eventing trainer. She trailered like a champ, as per usual. I can't wait to hear how she likes jumping!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Huey tries to kill others, himself

In the past 36 hours, Baby Huey:

1. Reared and struck out at a horse in an adjacent paddock. In so doing, he hung a leg over the fence. He managed to disentangle himself and was no worse for wear. (He was at a neighbor's farm post-trail-ride, and suddenly decided he didn't like the horse next to him. Camilla and I think he may have been channeling his recently deceased buddy, the stallion Encore.)

2. Apparently tried to leap over a lead rope strung across the opening to his stall. He has rope burns on his front legs and is ouchie, but again, seems to have done no real damage to himself. His owner, on the other hand, is pretty stressed out by this recent kamikaze behavior.

Huey's getting a week off to allow any soreness from his escapades to heal.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fun with commercial aviation

I scheduled my flights back from Philly yesterday with the idea of getting back in time to spring my dogs from the kennel. Also, by leaving Philly very, very early, I figured I was minimizing the amount of things that could go wrong. I got to the airport at 6 a.m. (and my brain was still on West Coast time, so it felt a heckuva lot earlier than that) and got on the plane to my Minneapolis connection bright and early.

We left the gate on time and were taxiing for takeoff when the plane suddenly slowed and stopped. The pilot came on and said "Folks, we have a warning light. We're going to turn the plane off, then on, and see if that fixes it." Seriously? Most of us passengers weren't too confident in that proposed fix. And, alas, it did not work. So, it was back to the gate, but they wouldn't let us off the plane. "Oh, don't worry, you'll still make your connections. We're tracking it!" said the cheerful gate agent who came aboard. After an hour, the chipper announcement was "Don't worry, we've already rebooked those of you with connections!" Then, a slightly less chipper announcement: "Those of you connecting in Minneapolis, please deplane. We'll give you a card with a phone number that will solve all your problems!" Wait a minute, if I'm already rebooked, who am I calling? Doesn't matter, because no card was forthcoming. We trooped off the plane, and standing in the jetway I heard the announcement: "OK, we need everyone to deplane."

I guess there were about 200 of us on that flight, and they had us all form a line at the counter next to the gate. I was about tenth in line; the rest of it stretched all the way back down the jetway. No one appeared at the counter for about ten minutes. Then, one agent arrived and started helping the first person in line. I guess that took about five minutes. Then he started helping the next person. After a couple minutes of frowning, he left the counter and went somewhere. I don't know if he ever returned. Perhaps twenty minutes later, another counter agent arrived and helped the third person in line. Then, she left (the second customer in line was still waiting for the first agent to come back). There were still 198 of us in line. I finally said "frak this," got out of line, and called the airline on my cell. A nice man rebooked me on a flight to Atlanta leaving almost immediately. I found a different staffed counter with no line, and that nice man printed my boarding passes.

The rest of the day went similarly, although it never reached the heights of ridiculousness of that first flight. You'd think this airline had never had to cancel a flight before! If I'd followed their advice, I'd probably still be standing in line at that unstaffed counter. I'm not going to name the airline, because they did get me back home (albeit late), and I've had similar experiences on almost every airline. What I have learned is not to trust a single thing they tell me, and to use my own best judgment to handle getting myself where I'm going.

I believe Willow is off to Louisiana this weekend to begin some jumper training! I hope they'll send some pix/video. If they do, I'll be sure to share!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fun lesson on Huey

I've been making lots of good progress on Huey. A few weeks back trainer Leslie helped me establish a stronger connection through the outside rein, and once Huey got over his consternation, we've been having nothing but fun rides. Sitting trot has gotten easy peasy now that Huey's not floating behind the vertical.

In this lesson we're off the circle--hooray! We do a little lateral work, including haunches in, and then out of nowhere Leslie has me try a couple flying changes, which I've never schooled on Huey before. I was pleased to get one in each direction in fairly short order. You'll see them at 7:22 and 7:58. Not pretty--no jump or expression--but they're clean and obedient. Huey already knows how to do them jumper-style. The poor guy is always trying to figure out what I'm asking for with my longer dressage leg. After the second change, Huey was pretty sure a jump was coming up! It took a bit to settle him. All in all, a really fun lesson!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


The barn where I ride lost an amazing horse to colic last night. His name was Encore, and he was a thirty-year-old stallion. He looked fantastic. His coat was glossy, and he was well-muscled. A sweet old guy, he was allowed to roam the property. He had lost most of his teeth, so his owner hand-fed him his meals. She really doted on him and is crushed by this loss. I hope she'll take comfort in the fact that he had the best retirement a horse could possibly have.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Stupid right leg

In the video of my last lesson, I noticed my right leg flopping about whenever I tracked right. I thought to myself, all smug, well, I'll just fix that on my next ride! So here's my next ride; I am utterly sure during this ride that I am keeping my right leg quiet. Ha! Bang-bang-bang whenever I track right. More about that in a minute. Other than my floppy right leg, I'm pleased with how Huey looks here. He had competed at a jumper event the day before, so he's pretty tired. When he's tired he's easily distracted, and when he's distracted he throws his head about and/or twists it--and you'll see a little of both here. But mostly he looks forward and relaxed.

Back to my wayward right leg. I figured it could be one of two things: either the right stirrup was too long, or I was pulling my leg up in time with my posting. Since my right leg wasn't banging when I tracked left, I doubted the stirrup length was the problem, and upon checking, it was not. Stirrup leathers totally even.

That left one answer: I was pulling my leg up in time with my posting. So today was focus on me day as I schooled Huey. I started on a circle to the left and watched my left boot. This being the obedient leg, I could see my toes all the time. I switched to the right and looked at my right boot. My toes were swinging out of sight every time I rose, and back into sight when I sat. Merde! I tried sitting the trot, and my right leg behaved. I tried two-point, and it behaved there, too. So I went back to posting, got myself perfectly square and even in the saddle, and focused all my attention on the muscles of my right leg. I finally felt the little twitch above my knee that was pulling my lower leg up. It was causing me to weight my left stirrup more and give Huey an "out" on bending to the right. I focused on stilling the twitch (which took a few circles, let me tell you!) and finally my right toes stopped disappearing. It took some new muscles to keep that right leg on and sitting deep--it's sore tonight. I videotaped and can see in the tape that my right leg is much quieter. Also, once I got the leg fixed, Huey offered a few quiet groans, which is Huey-speak for "I'm bending, but I don't wanna." I apologized to him for all the banging on his right side and promised to do better.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Brook Lee Catastrophe

Last night a friend and I checked out the Brook Lee Catastrophe at a local pub. They were terrific. They're sort of an indie rock/folk/alternative outfit, with a fiddle and, sometimes, a psychedelic vibe. If you'd like to hear some music/see some videos/check out tour dates, visit their MySpace page.

This is my favorite song by them. The video appears to be fan-made (and not that great, IMO).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lesson on Baby Huey

Here's a bit of my latest lesson on Huey. Unfortunately, the camera died after seven minutes, so you don't really get to see the good stuff. We had a super canter going at the end of the lesson. What you see here is really just warmup. Huey's not very forward and kinda crooked.

What this clip did help me to see was: Ugh! Banging right leg when tracking right! Stop that! I don't know when I picked up that habit, but I'm going to quit tout de suite. Huey doesn't like to bend to the right, but I've gotta find a quieter way to ask. Maybe it's time for some stubby spurs.

Camilla successfully jumped Huey at four feet last weekend. Way to go, Huey!

Today is Life in a Day, wherein you can submit video you shoot today to YouTube, and it might get chosen to be included in a Ridley Scott documentary. I thought that was kind of neat.

In the next couple of weeks, Willow is going to Louisiana to do some eventing training and let some people there try her out. Maybe we'll find a match!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dude, just how high were you?

I thought everyone had seen this video by now, but I talked to a couple people today who had heard of it but hadn't seen it, so I thought I would perform a public service. Behold the best weather-related freakout of all time! With every viewing, I'm more amazed by this fellow's ability to go from happy giggles to full-on sobbing in less than two seconds.

Of course, in this Web 2.0 world, it wasn't long before someone remixed his ramblings into a catchy song:

Nathan Fillion is recommending "double rainbow" as the latest synonym for "awesome," as in "That song was so great, it was full on double rainbow all the way."

I had a super lesson on Huey on Sunday. He's so much less fussy with his head. I've been playing around a bit with walk-canter-walk and it seems to be no problem.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy ending

Last October I installed a doggie door for my dogs, and they love it. Last night I went to a friend's birthday party for three hours. Unfortunately, I didn't add up (doggie door) + (4th of July fireworks) before I left for the party. My little beagle Abby is usually the sort to stay put, but the fireworks spooked her last night, and I came home to just Sam, no Abby. She had monkeyed her way over the fence.

I wasn't too worried for the first hour or so. I figured she was just running around the neighborhood and would turn up on my porch before long. But by 10 p.m. I was starting to panic. She was wearing her collar with her rabies tag on it, so if someone found her all they had to do was call the vet and we'd be reunited. Unfortunately, the vet is, of course, closed for the holiday, so that wasn't going to be a very speedy way to find her. I still hoped she would find her way home on her own. I left the front and back porch lights on and slept with the front door open -- just the glass storm door closed. I scooted my bed over so I could sleep looking directly out the front door. I got almost no sleep, although I know I snoozed a couple times because I woke up hallucinating that Abby was at the door.

This morning I called the police, who also serve as animal control, and made a report. The dispatcher I spoke with was as sweet as he could be. I spent most of the rest of the day alternating between walking around, driving around, and sitting in my living room worrying.

At around 3:00 the police dispatcher called to tell me that some folks had found Abby, had decided she needed a bath, had taken off her collar to bathe her, and had then proceeded to lose her. Un-frickin-believable. Thanks so much, folks, for taking off her one form of ID. But at least then I had a new place to search, 2 MILES south of my house. Sam and I started walking up and down the neighborhood, and then hallelujah! A nice young gentleman called to say he had Abby safe and sound in his living room. Sam and I sprinted back to the car and drove over, and there was the nice young man standing in his front yard with Abby on a leash. She was so exhausted she was wobbling. That nice young man is totally getting a gift certificate.

Once home, Abby ate her dinner, drank a bucket of water, and has been sleeping ever since. I, myself, am totally crashing. I haven't slept or eaten in almost 24 hours. I feel like sticking Abby in a papoose carrier so I know where she is at all times. Both dogs are getting deluxe ID tags and microchips ASAP.

Friday, July 2, 2010

It's all fun and games until somebody goes crazy

I'm back after a week in Denver for my company's annual conference. Us and 18,000+ of our closest friends. I slept for thirteen hours last night. My team and I run the bookstore, and it's pretty exhausting even when the customers are all pleasant. On Tuesday, a crazy woman began verbally attacking one of my colleagues. A different colleague and I politely asked the crazy woman to join us in a private meeting room to find out what her beef was. Thus began a ten-minute onslaught of insults and general hatefulness. I tried my best to calm her down and find out what she actually wanted. I was doing pretty well maintaining my cool, but then she insulted one of my colleagues with a nasty appearance-based epithet, and I stood up, told her I was highly offended, and tried to indicate that I was done meeting with her. At that point she started to cry and apologize profusely. I'm pretty sure she actually WAS having some kind of mental breakdown, so I've just tried to let the whole thing go. (My colleague said when the epithet was hurled and I stood up, he thought for a second I was going to launch myself at the woman, and he was trying to decide how long to let me whale on her before he interceded. Hee.)

Last year at our conference, a woman lost her mind upon finding out that we were out of her size of t-shirt. She actually did start to get physical, pushing the person staffing the t-shirt booth, and we had to call security. Over a t-shirt. I guess when you get 18,000 people together, there are bound to be a few with mental problems.

Here's Huey doing stadium at a 3-day event last week. I hear his dressage was lovely, too.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

At last

That's the sky today. And that sound you hear is the entire southern Willamette Valley weeping with relief.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Bechdel test

I ran across this video on Twitter a few days ago and thought it was really interesting. In the past ten years, with the popularity of Buffy, Sidney Bristow of "Alias," and Zoe of "Firefly," I really thought that the zeitgeist of women in television and movies was changing. Now I see that, if it is changing, it's doing so at a glacial pace.

Today, I found both of these pictures in the same article at [Insert inarticulate cry of rage and despair here.]

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Huey video

A harmonious schooling session; the kerfuffle at 4:52 is not a spook but a trip. Huey is famously fumble-footed except when jumping 3' 6" cross country. Go figure.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Random stuff that made me giggle

This is Simon, the electric schoolmaster. Now, I don't want to be entirely mean and snarky. There are probably many great uses for Simon. But my first thought was of the actual schoolmaster, Aron, that I got to lease while I lived in Lubbock. Which led me to wonder: Can Simon be programmed to be afraid of baggies? To randomly offer a capriole when cantering across the diagonal? I'm fairly skeptical about just how much knowledge will actually carry over from Simon to a flesh-and-blood equine.

And this, according to the blogosphere, is BP's planned logo redesign, undertaken before the mess in the Gulf. Should we laugh or cry?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bantry Bay

Bantry Bay was the last place we visited in Ireland. We were there for two and a half days. It's a picture-postcard of a town, situated where a steep valley winds down out of the foothills and hugs the bay. The town runs up the valley, and it seems like every building is a different cheerful color.

Not to be outdone, the boats on the bay are equally colorful:

We saw a handmade sign for the "Whiddy Island Festival," so we decided to take the free ferry over to the island. All we found was a bleak, windswept island populated by a few dozen sheep and cattle. The "festival" consisted of a pub, a bouncy house, and sumo suits. I think that in Ireland, if you have a pub, then you have a festival.

Another super ride on Huey this evening. He offered bigger strides when I asked for a medium in trot, so he's starting to get the idea. We also schooled working canter to collected to working. That's easy-peasy for him.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Falling in love again

I had one of those rides today that make you fall in love with dressage all over again. Huey was eager, bendy, and listening, so I threw a bunch of stuff at him and he handled it all without turning into a stress ball, as is his wont. Trot-shoulder-in to a few strides of medium, 10-meter canter circles, counter canter, working canter to collected back to working. He only tried to throw his head twice, and instead he just started to raise it, and then I saw a thought bubble reading, "Aw, fiddlesticks, that never works," and he went right back to being soft.

Medium trot will probably be our biggest bugaboo, so I'm not asking for much, but am instead focusing on the downward transition to very collected trot for a few strides, then back to working trot. I want him to really sit down and build those butt muscles, and hopefully that will help him get the idea for medium.

Camilla had a jumping lesson on Huey yesterday, and I took pictures. Here's Air Huey doing his thing:

What a versatile gelding!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Second lesson on Baby Huey

I had a really fun lesson on Huey on Saturday. Camilla hauled both Huey and Flash over, and she took a lesson as well. The plan was to stick Flash in an empty stall while I had my lesson, but Huey had a meltdown when I got him into the arena and he realized Flash wasn't coming, so rather than spend my entire lesson getting Huey to stop shrieking and leaping about, Camilla brought Flash into the arena and stood with him. Silly Baby Huey.

With his buddy back in the picture, Huey was very good. I can tell the quality of the trot and canter has improved since our last lesson. I'm also able to keep a solid connection much of the time. (Huey would rather float behind the bit.) No more crowhopping in the canter departs, and transitions in general are looking much more relaxed. Camilla took Huey to a cross country clinic on Sunday, and she said the instructor complimented her on Huey's flatwork. Yay!

You'll see in the video trainer Leslie with her arm in a cast. She was helping the head trainer work on piaffe to passage transitions as a ground person, and the horse kicked out and broke her wrist. Two pins and no riding for eight weeks. Her mom, next to her, has a broken ankle from a bad step a month ago. Together, they look like they've been in a rumble.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

First lesson on Baby Huey

Here's my first lesson on Huey (April 14), which was also only my third ride ever on him. You can see we're still feeling each other out. The fussiness turned out to be mouth discomfort; his teeth have since been floated and he's much quieter with his head.

He's a very sensitive-type thoroughbred. I had a super ride on him today. He's starting to understand the idea of a very subtle half halt. Yesterday Camilla took a jumping lesson on him, and today I had to pay close attention--there are jumps set up in the arena, and a couple times I felt him try to lock onto one and take me over. Abort, abort!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What to do when a horse flips

Here are some safety tips we all hope we'll never need.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Flash and Camilla had a lovely dressage test on Sunday. I didn't stick around for the cross country, but there was a professional photographer there, so I got to see pictures. Every single picture looks like this:

Apparently, Flash thought he was jumping five feet that afternoon. He is small, but he is mighty.

Tonight I lunged Huey in side reins. He's not very used to that, so I kept them pretty loose. Even so, he produced a few impressive temper tantrums. I'm a big believer in obedient lungeing, so we'll keep at it. We have a lesson with Leslie tomorrow. I'm so out of shape!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Florence, Flash, and Baby Huey

It's Friday, at last, and I have a fun weekend planned. Tomorrow a friend and I are taking another friend to Florence (on the coast) for her birthday. I haven't been over to the coast in, like, a year. So stupid, because it's less than an hour away. It's even supposed to be sunny.

On Sunday, I'm off to a local eventing competition to watch Camilla ride Flash in the dressage portion. Then I'll head over to the barn and work Baby Huey. I'm going to bring my own dressage saddle along and see if it fits him (I suspect it will -- he's got a high wither just like Willow). The de Kunffy saddle that Camilla has is really flat and hard as a rock. Camilla is a hardier soul than I, I guess. I want my comfy saddle.

Camilla trailers over to take lessons with trainer Leslie on Wednesdays, and she has offered to bring Huey along so I can take a lesson as well. She's really focusing on Flash, so Huey is usually free. What a great deal! It's funny how things just work out sometimes.

In November I joined Massage Envy, so I get a massage every month. It's been rather awesome. But my massage therapist, Tracy, is stumped by the muscle that runs under my right scapula. It's basically in spasm all the time. I was sort of aware of this already; I get this weird creepy-crawly feeling in that area several times every day, and it always hurts some after I do anything strenuous. Tracy has not been able to get this muscle to unknot. Last time she said she's going to call up her instructor for advice. I separated my right shoulder ten years ago in a riding accident, and Tracy wonders if that was the start of the problem. It's weird to think of that poor muscle spasming away for years at a time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

First real ride on Baby Huey

Huey is going to be a blast! He learns fast, he's very bendy, and he has such a cheerful attitude. Walk, trot, canter, leg yield, no problem. I asked him to be a little sharper to my leg, and he said, yes, ma'am. We had very few miscommunications, and his only disobedience was a bit of crowhopping when I first asked for canter. Camilla said he's been doing that with her as well, so she's going to have his back checked. He worked out of it immediately. He's got a super canter--leisurely and adjustable.

I videotaped, but silly me, I had the camera pointed into the western sky, so everything but the sky is way underexposed. I will do better next time.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Feeling whole again

Today I went out to Camilla the eventer's barn to try out the two geldings she asked me if I wanted to start schooling in dressage.

First up was Baby Huey. He's a gray TB, I guess around 16.1 or 16.2. He may not have the most obviously spectacular dressage potential, but bless his heart, he tries so hard. I had a really fun test ride on him: walk, trot, trot leg yield, and canter. He was very obedient and light in the bridle. My goal with him will be to get him more solid into the outside rein. He's a little wormy and doesn't want to bend to the right. I really did click with him right away.

Next up was Flash, who you saw a few days back in the video. He's TB/Oldenburg, about 15.3. Flash has super gaits, but I couldn't get him in front of my leg. Camilla says he likes to test everyone and will be as lazy as you let him. Since this was just a test ride, I didn't get into it with him, but next time I'll use a whip and spurs. In spite of the sucking back, we had decent walk and trot, and canter to the left. To the right, no luck getting a canter (doesn't want to bend, for one thing). Something to work on!

They both have a lot of potential, and I feel like they could both be going second level by the end of the summer. The current plan is for me to work one or both of them on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. There's only an outdoor arena at this barn, so I need to get some better all-weather riding gear, and I gotta get my saddle oiled up so it doesn't get ruined in the rain. We lucked out today and managed to get both rides in between squalls.

As much as I love and miss having my own horse, I also truly love getting on a variety of horses and figuring each one out. I find it so fascinating.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fun in Galway

I took a stroll down the old Long Walk
On the day-i-ay-i-ay

So, when you're in Galway, you're supposed to head down to the Long Walk and kick the wall at the end for good luck. My friend and I kept meaning to do that, and the Long Walk was really nearby, but we somehow just never made it. If I have bad luck, I'll only have myself to blame.

Here's one of the cool narrow alleys in Galway, filled with shops and pubs.

And here's a cheesemonger! Which caused us to discuss, just what can you be a monger of? Cheese and fish. And war. But, for instance, not one of the sweater shops was labeled "Sweatermonger."

In this pub, a middle-aged, drunken Irishman sat down with us and announced he was going to recite us poetry. Then he forgot to do that. He also offered us a place to stay for the night, if we needed one. Then he confided that he was a wee bit tipsy. We quite enjoyed his company.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flash! A-aaahhh!

That's a Flash Gordon reference, for all of you too young to remember the 1980s. Here's Flash, one of the two geldings that my eventer friend is graciously allowing me to ride. In this video, trainer Leslie is aboard. Doesn't Flash have some serious dressage potential?

I'm off to my eventer friend's barn this weekend to get the lay of the land, and I hope to be back in the saddle starting next week. I need to talk to my friend about whether she minds me blogging about her horses. I'm hopeful that she'll be ok with it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara

On our day tour of Connemara, we stopped at Kylemore Abbey for lunch. It's the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. Since 1920 there has been a community of nuns there. The castle itself was completed in 1871.

Even out of season, the abbey's Victorian walled garden is amazing. It covers 8.5 acres.

Here I am by the lake in front of the abbey, wearing my new Irish wool scarf. It was windy and chilly, but not bad.

Also on the grounds of the abbey is a neo-gothic church, completed in 1881.

The nuns run a girls' boarding school, and those girls must have to be pretty darn creative to find any trouble at all. The abbey is halfway between the middle of nowhere and the edge of nowhere.

Starting gate practice

Teaching babies what the starting gate is all about. These jockeys really earn their money.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Bantry is a gourgeous little village on Bantry Bay, with mountains all around. There are lots of narrow streets lined with brightly-colored shops. My friend is currently touring the Bantry House & Gardens. I decided to skip the tour and walk back to the hotel. An elderly Irish gentleman fell in with me and escorted me for about fifteen minutes. He had the thickest Irish accent I've ever heard! I understood about a third of what he said. He was quite concerned to learn that I'm 38 and never married. His advice--marry the next fellow who asks me out. He was very sweet and kissed me on the cheek when we parted. Next up--we're taking a ferry out to Whiddy Island to see the festival they're having. We've had sunshine yesterday and today!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Bus tour of Connemara was super. It's very desolate and quietly pretty. Lots o' sure-footed, black-faced sheep. Saw some of the filming locations for The Quiet Man. Only saw ponies as we were whizzing by. Ate lunch at a Benedictine abbey/castle. Struck out on good music last night. Now on a bus to Bantry!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Irish music

Went to a pub last night and saw a traditional Irish band called Alale. It was a guitarist, a fiddle/singer, a drummer, a bagpipe player, and a flute/tin whistle player. They were wonderful and the place was packed. The singer had a lovely mournful voice. I wore my new sweater and got a compliment on it. Galway is really windy, btw. Now off to Connemara! I'm taking lots of pix but so far no opportunity to upload ...

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I'm typing this on an iPod touch, so forgive the telegraphic English! Got to the hotel at 3 pm and napped until 9. Went out to a pub and stayed until the empty bottles started to fly. Ireland on St Patty's Day is crazy! Then we accidentally slept until 1 today. Oops. Spent the whole afternoon shopping. Awesome sweater shops here. Talked to a drunk Irishman who had lost 700 Euros on the ponies. Now going out to the pubs again. Tomorrow taking a bus tour of Connemara. Hope to see some Connemara ponies!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ireland, here I come

Tomorrow evening my friend and I leave for Portland to spend the night near the airport, and then Tuesday morning we're off to Ireland! If I can find some internet cafes, I'll try to post pictures while I'm there; otherwise, I'll post like crazy when I'm back!

Willow update: she's doing super. She has a nice big pasture to run around in.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Pretty much everyone has the high school anxiety dream, right? The one where you can't find your locker, and then when you find it, you can't remember your combination, and it doesn't really matter anyway because you never attended class all semester and today's the final.

Since I shipped Willow off, I've been having my dressage anxiety dream every few nights. In this dream, I'm at a show, and my class is coming up in a couple of hours. I think to myself, "Plenty of time to braid, tack up, and warm up." Then I check my watch again, and it's suddenly half an hour before my class. No time to braid, I can't find my stock tie, and my stall isn't where I thought it was. Last night, in addition, I realized Willow and I had mistakenly ended up in a PSG class. I was wondering how I was going to fake the tempis. I hope the dreams stop when I get back to riding again in a few weeks.

For the second time in my life, I have pneumonia. I had it five years ago, when I was living in Lubbock, and I didn't realize what it was until it had progressed quite a bit. This time around I suspected I might have it (something about the barky, squeaky, wheezy cough) and caught it before it got bad. Yesterday I vegetated on the couch all day and plowed through most of season 4 of Angel. Unfortunately, it's a pretty funny season, and every time I laughed it set off a coughing jag.

Have y'all seen the latest video from OK Go (a.k.a. the guys with way too much time on their hands)? I find it mesmerizing, even more so than the treadmill video.

This video prompted me, for the first time, to wonder who, exactly, was Rube Goldberg? Wikipedia says:

Reuben Lucius Goldberg (July 4, 1883 – December 7, 1970) was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor. Goldberg is best known for a series of popular cartoons he created depicting complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways – now known as Rube Goldberg machines. Goldberg received many honors in his lifetime including a Pulitzer Prize for his political cartooning in 1948 and the Banshees' Silver Lady Award in 1959.

So now I know.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Big, sad news. I've decided I can no longer afford to keep Willow. It's a very painful decision I've been creeping reluctantly towards for about the past six months, and let me tell you, there were many tears. I bought Willow as a four-year-old, and I'm incredibly attached. So much so, in fact, that I couldn't face the prospect of trying to sell her myself. The only bright spot in the whole deal has been my dear friends/former trainers Wolfgang and Suzanne, down in Texas, who immediately stepped in and offered to board and market Willow for me.

So, on February 11 the Equine Express truck pulled up to the barn and picked up Willow. She was delivered to the ranch south of Blanco, TX, on Valentine's Day. Suzanne said she walked calmly off the truck without a scratch on her. Here she is, minutes off the truck, enjoying the Texas sunshine:

She always has been an extremely self-sufficient mare.

And so, here I am, still technically a horse owner, but horseless. It has been over twelve years since I haven't had a horse to work five days a week. I'm feeling fairly adrift (although sick for the past week and grateful not to have to head out into the rain every evening).

I've already had an offer from an eventer who trailers into the barn once a week for lessons. She has two TBs and not enough time (and I get the feeling dressage is kind of like Brussels sprouts for her), and she has offered to let me bang around on her horses whenever. Also, there's a new Halflinger at the barn that may be free for me to ride once a week or so. So once I get back from Ireland, I'll be exploring those possibilities. I'm pretty sure, one way or another, I'll find a way to keep riding, so this blog probably won't be going anywhere.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

When work is fun!

This cutting horse likes his job so much he continues to do it during his downtime.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A revelation

Willow stopped her homicidal behavior but has remained high as a kite this week. Instead of throwing her head up and attempting to rear, now she's throwing her head up and acting like she wants to bolt. I prefer the bolting to the rearing, but really, I prefer neither. I mentioned Willow's antics to my trainer, and she went into the tackroom and grabbed a running martingale for me.

I had never heard of using a running martingale for dressage training. I knew what they were, of course, but I had never really thought about just how they work. None of my previous barns even had one available. Well, consider me a convert! What a great piece of equipment! It only engages when the horse raises its head above a certain level. Otherwise, it just hangs there entirely without effect.

Willow took off at high speed, and I still had complete control. No longer did I have to worry that she might put her nose above her ears. I just let her gallop around until the bee flew out of her bonnet, and then we had a productive ride. The only drawback I found was you can't really do an opening inside rein while using a running martingale. Not a big deal unless you have a totally untrained horse.

I should mention that I've done a thorough physical check of Willow and have made sure the bridle and saddle are fitting correctly. I can't find anything that's triggering this behavior. I think it's just cabin fever/mid-winter-blues. The horses get daily turnout all winter, but because of the mud they go in the smaller paddocks. It's a good change of pace from the stall all day, but they can't get the bucks out. In the summer, they get pasture turnout, and Willow's half TB side benefits greatly from the room to run.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Come to Jesus

Lest you think Willow is a darling girl all the time, I thought I'd post about tonight's ride. Now, thinking back on my last few rides, I see clearly that she was building up to an extreme bout of naughtiness. Tonight when I got on, all she would do is throw up her head and threaten to rear. It got dangerous pretty fast, and I was at the barn alone, so I decided not to engage in the fight from the saddle. I hopped off, hooked up the side reins, and proceeded to lunge the snot out of her instead. I made as big of an oval as I could and galloped her 'til she was pooped. Then I got back on and galloped her for another ten minutes. Then I made her trot really big for another ten minutes. She's not stupid; she realized I was furious and was utterly obedient under saddle the second time around. I praised her up and down and then walked her for twenty minutes until she wasn't blowing. She was a steamy mare.

I gave her some bute, and sore or not, she's getting galloped again tomorrow! I let her build up to thinking she's running the show; time to remind her who's in charge. Alpha mare that she is, she's always testing me. It's actually part of the reason I love mares. You have to earn every inch with them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Here comes the sun

Saturday we had an actual sunny day. Not just a few minutes of sun peeking out between showers: sunshine and blue skies all day long. It was glorious.

I took more video of Willow (told you I was addicted). This time I captured a little bit of the very collected canter I've been working on on the lunge. Between 1:29 and 1:31 there's a stride that's approaching the level of collection needed for pirouette. To the right she never reached that level of collection, but I still like how she's working. I also like the collection in the trot on the small circle. It's all good for strengthening her hind end.

She'd had three days off due to me being sick, so she was a little challenging under saddle. But I got some good canter-walk transitions (although I can see I need to half halt again in the walk to keep her from pitching onto her forehand). I also got some good shoulder-in to the left in trot.

Today I worked her in heavy rain and wind with a mondo marathon going on at the nearby shooting range. She was mostly focused and didn't squabble as much as yesterday.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another Willow video

Here's video from Saturday. Mostly I'm just working on the quality and looseness of the canter, but there are a couple shoulder-ins in trot, and a few canter-walk-canter transitions. At the end there's a shot of Willow's new, improved, foamy mouth.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lungeing (or longeing, if you must)

Earlier this winter, when Willow was dealing with her ulcer and I was frantically trying to figure out what was wrong with her, I stopped riding and switched to lungeing for about four weeks, because I thought the random stomping might be signaling a lameness issue, and it's easier to see movement on the lunge than feel it under saddle. Of course, it turns out that, happily, a course of ulcer treatment and an ongoing aloe vera supplement fixed Willow right up. An added bonus: Willow really started to get her groove on on the lunge. For most of us, lungeing isn't as fun as riding, but you really can accomplish a ton on the lunge.

For a lungeing-only session, my routine is thus:

I start Willow off with very long, training-level-frame side reins. Always, when we start out, these long side reins don't look very long. Willow wants to keep her neck pretty straight and overbend at the poll. I walk her for a bit, and then when I ask her to move out of walk, she always launches straight into canter. (This has been a good clue for me that perhaps Willow is one of those horses that warms up better in canter.) I have her canter and trot for a few minutes, and then I halt her and shorten the side reins. I've been shortening the side reins very slowly over the past year, and now she can handle them being quite short. (But I don't just suddenly crank her in from training level to short: Depending on how she feels, I usually take her halfway, let her walk a bit, and then shorten all the way. If she resists, we don't shorten all the way that day. I keep an eye on the rubber donuts: if they're really stretched, I know she's leaning and resisting.)

Now I ask for a big trot and canter, to make sure she's stepping through into the new frame. I apply little "bumping" half halts if she tries to drop her head and go behind the vertical. She has mostly figured out what I'm asking for, so this has gotten to be much less of an issue. We do lots of transitions between gaits, and after about five minutes I start bringing her in on a ten meter circle, asking for trot and canter. When she's balanced at ten meters, I bring her in to eight meters. Circles this small are really hard work, so I don't keep her in so tight for very long. I use a release onto the large circle as a reward. To the left, on the very small circle, Willow tends to want to travel haunches-in, so I use little touches with the whip to ask her to move her haunches out. (Of course, you need to be cautious of the horse's reaction when they're this close to you.)

I usually finish up by asking for a medium trot. I walk along with her so she's traveling on more of a very large oval, to give her the room she needs. Then I bring her back to working trot for a bit, halt, and we change directions. (I alternate which direction I start her in with every session.) Lather, rinse, repeat in the new direction.

When we're done, I lengthen the side reins back to training-level-length and have Willow trot for a couple minutes to stretch out. The cool thing is, remember how in the warmup the side reins seemed rather short even at this length? Well, now they seem really long. Willow's withers are up and she's giving through the length of her neck. Now she has to reach a bit to find the contact. It's a pretty good indication she's working correctly, I think. We do a couple minutes of long and low, and then I have her walk for a couple minutes.

The lungeing has been going so well I'm doing an abbreviated version of the above before every ride.

In other news, on Thursday I had a doctor's appointment to establish care with a new doctor and re-up a prescription. She decided I needed vaccinations: H1N1, flu, and pneumonia. I haven't had a vaccination in forever. When I woke up yesterday, I could barely move my left arm. It felt like someone hit my upper arm, hard, with a two by four. It woke me up every couple of hours last night. Next time, I'll start on the ibuprofen immediately following the vaccinations!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ireland watch continues

I turned in my passport application today. I'm going to Ireland March 16-23! My good friend Lynda is going with me. We're going to stay half the time in Bantry and half in Galway. I'm starting to eye the equestrian options in Bantry. A half-day ride through the countryside would be amazing. Now I need to figure out the awesome new Canon digital SLR my parents got me for Christmas. I used to be quite the photographer; now's the time to get back into practice.

Willow the Woolly grew out the first trace clip I gave her in November, so I clipped her again Tuesday evening. She just about had a heat stroke when I worked her on Monday; I felt bad. Last night I did some work in hand with her. We hadn't done that in a long while. She was quite good about it. I even got two piaffe steps out of her going to the left. Mostly, though, I was just reacquainting her with the idea. The first two things you have to establish when doing work in hand are submission and trust. Otherwise, explosions ensue.

Willow's starting to offer almost a pirouette canter when I bring her in on a tight circle on the lunge. It's fun to see. I think we're on the cusp of making some great progress this year.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I don't get it

Will someone please explain to me why this ad would make me want to buy a Toyota 4Runner? It starts off with a simple banner for the product. Am I in? I don't know.

A slider appears. I slide it from "out" to "in."

Creepy-crawlies of all types begin to infest the ad, becoming more and more numerous. It kind of makes me think of the scene early in the "Fellowship of the Ring" when the hobbits are hiding from the Nazgul in a ditch, and worms, spiders, and scorpions start to ooze out of the earth.

The end. A few spiders remain. I wonder why there was a man's arm in the ad, just sitting there, and now it's gone.

I have a pretty extensive background in marketing, so usually I can suss out what an ad is trying to accomplish, but this one has me stumped. I now associate 4Runners with being covered in insects and arachnids. That's not a positive association for me.

Does anyone have an explanation?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back in business with video

I finally got my videocamera-to-computer transfer working again. In the end I had to reinstall the software that came with the videocamera, even though it's not the software I'm using to capture video. Reinstalling that software also fixed some issues I'd been having with YouTube. Go figure.

Here's me and Willow lungeing last weekend. That's the radio playing in the background. Rocky, one of the barn dogs, developed diabetes a couple of years ago and is now totally blind. We leave the radio on in the arena at all times so if he wanders off the farm he can find his way back. It's not exactly my choice in music, but it's about the only channel that comes well, and I will put up with Kid Rock if it means Rocky doesn't get lost.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010: The Year We Lighten Contact

I've been obsessively videotaping myself for the past week (sure do wish my new videocamera cord would arrive so I could share the video with y'all). My new year's resolution is to absolutely stop trying to get Willow to lighten by wagging her head. I don't even realize I'm doing it, but it's glaringly obvious on the videotape. Instead, I'm going to be much more solid with my contact, because if I am (be the side rein . . . be the side rein) then Willow lightens all on her own after a few minutes. She's just testing me, and I need to stop getting into little arguments with her.

Second resolution: keep those reins short. I've gotten Willow working really well on fairly short side reins when I lunge, so there's absolutely no reason why she can't do the same thing under saddle. She's got to learn to carry her big ol' self all on her own, and I'm doing her no favors by letting her lengthen her frame every two minutes.

Overall, when I think back to where we were a year ago, I'm just thrilled. Willow has filled out and muscled up, and I'm spending most of our sessions in sitting trot with reliable half halts. (Sitting trot used to feel pretty freight-train-ish.) Her temper tantrums are all but eliminated. Her mouth is foamy after every ride. She's starting to really sit in the canter. She's bendy.

In other news, guess whose barn is getting a hot walker? :) :)