Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Morning Coming Down

All my cowgirl friends were otherwise engaged this morning so I rode out alone. Johnnie and I had a 2-hour blast of crazy fun on the ski trails and lived to tell about it. He started out being very balky and "no I don wanna" but at the end he was crisp and sharp, and loving it, and did not take the turn back to the barn until I insisted. And at the stoop he was so honey sweet, I could tell it had finally been a good experience for him. And hurray! I did not get lost in the ski trail system, which is a huge fear of mine! You can wander and circle around in there forever and never return... Here's a ski bench, at an odd height designed for skiers to lean on and rest or adjust their skis.

And we visited Johnny's swimming hole where fresh tasty green riverside vegetation requires his attention:

And on the way home we passed this dad whose children were all chanting "Go across Dad!' as he encountered an existential reluctance to cross this log over the river:

He tried to dodge the inevitable by saying, "Look kids up there is a horse!" but they were not susceptible; 'Come on Dad! Cross the log!" Do you think he crossed, or not?

To view some beautiful trail photos from across the truly big ocean, go here:
Zoe's Life, and see a lovely British cowgirl's route with her Dales Pony Zoe. a true superstar.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Easy Ride: The View and Canter Corridor

I've really learned a lot from the comments about my trail anxieties and whether they are rational or just hoodooing myself. This morning I decided that, due to short time and freshman welcome workshops I had to plan and conduct, I would take two reliable trail points as my fun destinations: The View (photo above) and Canter Corridor.

The View is the gorgeous Big Lake and today you could see Wisconsin clearly all the way over. The houses below look like Monopoly tokens and the whole world just breathes differently from up there. Migrating birds are beginning to be on the move and I'll get a picture of a beautiful red-tailed hawk one of these days. Autumn will soon be here in the northern parts, and I LOVE that season.

Canter Corridor is my favorite place to do a pipe-opener free lolloping gallopy canter: gentle uphill, trees on both sides give the horse a very strong sense of go down this hall, and the footing is perfect: loamy firm grass. It is only about a 2-minute canter stretch but that's about nice for training.

And Johnnie books on this particular stretch because he gets to visit the Snack-a-teria at the end:

This is a patch of beautiful untouched green grass that lies in the shade at the end of Canter Corridor. Then we go gaiting back down the corridor and home again, for a nice 1 1/2 hour round trip. As good as it gets!!! Happy riding everyone! I packed up my fears in a basket and left them behind. We saw only cute tiny dogs including a 'Schnoodle', schnauzer/poodle, cute little dickens. No crabby old men - hurray!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"What if...?": Fears on the Trail

1. "What if my horse spooked forward and jumped off this cliff?"

2. "What if Johnnie tripped and fell down while we are crossing this 55-mph speed limit road, and a semi came roaring around the corner with brake failure?"

3. "What if John got stung by a wasp while we are passing this rusted-out wreck in the woods, and cut himself open on its sharp fender, and bled to death miles from anywhere?"

There's a fine line between due caution & care on one side, and worry-warting negative thinking paranoia on the other. I suspect I am often a leetle tad to the wrong side of this line. Where do you draw it?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beach Visit and RW(h)D

What big ears you have Gabey! After a hectic day we went down to the beach and watched unusual amounts of surf pound up from believe it or not, a lake! Well it is the big one - Lake Superior, but usually it is placid at the beach. Today we had rip tide warnings posted and actual surfers!

Gabey kept trying to pick up seagull feathers, but he got sand in his mouth in the process...frustrating to a little dog.

Finally he got one! Hurray!

It's amazing to see these mighty waves rolling up out of a fresh water lake. Many people were down there just to play in the surf and ogle Mother Nature's rolling power.

It always refreshes my mind to see something like this; it reminds me we are just little land and shore-dwelling animals on this blue planet, and the fact that after work today I had a terrible ride "Riding With (hellish) Distractions" at the barn seems not so aggravating:

Yes, it was a loud and raucous time, but Montana didn't seem too upset (I was more distracted than he was); because we were tacking up in a new location due to the earthworks project that took over the yard, he got to eat spilled grain from the mare's lunch, which alas turns out to have ReguMate in it, so he may be singing soprano for awhile:

What a day! Time for a shower and some ice cream...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

St. Louis Missouri: Great Place to Visit!

Click on the photo of this gorgeous stained glass tableau and see that it shows: In the middle, St. Louis-Lady being central and smug. On the right, New York-Lady being envious of St. Louis, and on the left, San Francisco-Lady also being envious or attentive. In our St. Louis dreams ladies! But oh well. It's a masterpiece of stained glass art and it decorates the entrance to the old train station turned into a Hyatt hotel where I stayed for my recent visit.

Why did I go to St. Louis esp since it required 129 million hours of driving through construction in Illinois??

Here's a clue:

Yes my older son had his "White Coat" ceremony on Friday. I had never heard of such a thing, but apparently many if not all? medical schools have a ceremony of induction into the profession where they give every new med student a white coat and a vow is recited, speeches are made, strange meatballs are eaten and parents vie for whose head explodes the quietest.

I loved St. Louis! It is absolutely filled with neoclassical art and here's just one example of a beautiful art-deco styled Pegasus, from the veteran's monument; I think Pegasus, who is there twice at either side of the entry, once led by a woman and once by a man, is perhaps supposed to be taking fallen warriors' souls away to the heavens. But this is just a guess; in some ways Pegasus (escape horse of Perseus, a favored child of the gods in classical myth) is a strange iconic choice for this monument but hey! It was the 1920's and who knows?

There was a ton of beautiful public art, including this gorgeous mounted statue of Saint Louis hisself:

And he turns out to have been kind of a mixed blessing; Crusade-instigator, patron of the arts, more and more. Here's me and my first baby standing below Saint Louis:

But here's my first-born son looking doctorly in his new white coat:

He said it was a weird feeling. "They have given us these white coats, but we know NOTHING."

And the message from the ceremony speakers was; You should always feel this proud, and you should always feel this humble. You are seeking to join an honorable profession, but you will always be a learner and a student, until you retire or die.

Medicine in our times is such a strange field - insurance, lifestyle choices, doctor's overbooked schedule, poverty and environmental damages. What sense to make of all this? All the new young med students took a vow they had written together; it was quite long and very very morally serious, about social commitments and access to affordable health care, constant re-education of health care professionals, humanism and care and personal concern for patients' welfare:

My young one is in an MD/PhD program and will not be a big-income doctor but a researcher, if all goes as planned; he is interested in gene therapy , esp for juvenile cancer. What a long hard path lies ahead of him - school will take about 8 years, with a medical residency and a Ph.D. completion included. But he looked so happy that day! I think he is in a good place, for him.

Tomorrow I get my Gabey back from his boarding, and go visit my horses, who have probably so enjoyed a 4-day vacation....

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sailors take warning

And indeed this pink sky at dawn the other day meant a day of soft rain and rolling thunderstorms. I've been reading about BrownEyed Cowgirls' tree worries - the power company wants to take down some of her favorites. Nothing so sad as a tree being cut down - all those years of work! These big evergreens in my back yard have very shallow root systems and they tend to blow down, but they are mighty green warriors while they last.

And my new lily bloomed:

I'm told that deer don't eat day lilies, so tough luck to the army of marauders that cruise through my yard every morning and night! I used to think deer were cute until I saw how much they can eat...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

'Oh Noes! Another dressage lesson!"

Yes today I finally got back into dressage lessons with my poor dude Montana who had been happily munching in the pasture for several days since our trail ride Saturday.

We worked on transitions from seat and leg. Some time in the past, I was apparently abducted by aliens and they installed evil little bad riding machines in my hands. These alien machines kick into gear whenever I want them not to. They really screw around with my riding by causing my hands and wrists to malfunction/hyperfunction when they are supposed to be doing nothing, nothing at all. I am so sorry I fell victim to this alien abduction because otherwise I am sure I would be a great rider with tactful quiet hands. Life is such a bitch sometimes.

Montana enjoyed his grain treat plus supplements afterwards:

And Johnnie acted out a bit, because he really wanted to do something today and I did not have time:

But then he got quieter and just looked at me from afar with guilt-inducing stare:

Funny dudes. A storm was blowing in and it has been raining a cool gentle rain ever since. Nice!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

And which Disney Princess are YOU?

You Are Pocahantas!
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Free-spirited and wise. You have a strong passionate spirit that touches and changes all who know you. The wisdom and common sense that you have is really what guides you through life. Even so, you also have a very playful side that loves adventure and excitement.

Which Disney Princess Are You?

I got this from Momma/Cowgirl's blog An Unfinished Project...she is Cinderella and says she can relate to the reasons why. I'm not sure how my result was Pocahontas except maybe that I answered, if stranded in the middle of nowhere with no money, I would walk home. Assuming you have always imagined yourself as one Disney princess or another, the brief quiz will help you get specific. Happy Monday everyone!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Both my little rascals go out on the town

For the first time in my life I have trailered both my horses out for a fun day of horsin around! I usually only take one and maybe pick someone else up, but today we had a complicated loose little plan and no deadlines whatsoever, so I went to my friend L's house and we:

(1) Got Montana tacked up and trail rode out with L and her Lipizzan, while John stood in a cool shady stall and ate nice green hay:

Doesn't he look fetching? Even though he'd rather be wearing pearls and sparkle nail polish...I have let his trail training slip away and allowed him to become somewhat of an arena flower, as his dressage work and jumping is so specialized etc. blah blah excuses, but I am going to make up for that. I so believe that trails are useful and beneficial for all horses, no matter their other jobs. So today he had a nice long loose walk around in the sun and heard the birdies sing, saw grasshoppers, and ate some live grass. He was in hog heaven. We rested him the round pen and then:

(2) We cleaned my friend's gelding's sheath; did I mention I am the Sheath Whisperer? Everybody has some talent and it just happens that mine is gross, but useful.

(3) We put Montana in a cool stall with lovely green hay and tacked up John and let J ride him - who has not ridden in several years:

L went into drill sergeant mode and gave J lots of orders; they are old friends and he took it well.

(4) L had to get gaiting on Johnnie too:

(5) Finally "beer for my horses!":

Johnnie did everything but smash the can on his forehead and these two frat boys could have partied all night long...but it had already been a long day and (drumroll) both my little rascals self-loaded and off home we went. By self-loaded I just mean they walked on at a prompt; not that they opened the doors and tucked up their own butt-bars...

But heavens I love this horse who can be a catch-ride for anyone and cause me no worries whatsoever, knock on wood:

Not that I don't love my dressage princess-gelding Montana was a full day...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

All My Riding Sins, Confessed

We traveled today for our gaited horse lesson and fun training experience at a Rocky Mountain Horse facility 2 hours away. My friend K, her lovely daughter, and her horse who is Johnnie's Partner in Crime in the pasture accompanied me & John. We passed through all the stages of clinic grief: (1) Loss of the dream "My horse and I will be praised to the skies!" (2) Successive failures to accomplish the tasks assigned, excuses offered; (3) Humble struggle to do something, anything, that will show your horse to his advantage; (4) Liberal servings of humble pie, seconds available.

The first surprise of the day was putting Johnnie and his Partner in Crime into this beautiful plastic? covered arena, where it was at least 15 degrees cooler than the outside. This gorgeous facility had a washrack, 3 stalls, a huge neat and tidy tackroom and a bathroom, inside. PLUS a huge riding arena with delightful footing. It was horse heaven in a way.

Then Johnnie got brought out to have a demo about the sections of a horse's back and what different lengths of "working spine" mean:

We got to see some real Rockies, who looked like sportscars compared to our tankers:

And at last I will confess all my riding and horsemanship sins as I learned of them today:

1. My horse is too fat. Fat gaited horses get stifle and hock issues. Diet for Johnnie asap!

2. John does not bend any where near adequately, from the neck. He needs a huge amount of work on reaching his neck down, and from side to side. He is stiff as a board. I always thought this was his conformation: I called him my Oreboat. But no, he can do it, I just need to insist.

3. I use way too much hand, not nearly enough core, seat, leg.

4. I nag, I don't ask intelligently.

5. I don't know where his feet are at any given time. "Move the feet, move the mind" but if you don't know...

So we have a ton of homework to do! And it rather rocked our world, to hear someone knowledgeable tell us so clearly where we fall short. But we are pretty determined to do the best for our little gaited partners in Crime so we are going to work for one month then go back for another lesson. And maybe try to go for a trail ride in Governor Knowles State Forest while we are down there. It's a good plan! And I saw this gorgeous rainbow on the way home, quite the good omen don't you think!