Thursday, October 30, 2008

It Has Come to This

$14.95 to make Gabriel a Devil Dog, and not a happy one to judge by this photo. He appears to be resentfully skulking under the weight of his new evil identity.

Or perhaps he might prefer a dancing skeleton bandana:

And here's Johnnie mumbling up the barn cat:

Kitteh took a 2 week holiday and we feared he had been eaten by an owl but then he returned in his original condition so all is well.

Gabey can't wait for trick-or-treaters. He will be convinced as always that they only came by to see HIM. He's sort of an innocent little solipsist. The world doesn't have to revolve around him, it just chooses to do so because it is a kind and good world.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

She Wants to Buy Him

I've been looking into this kind eye for 8 years. Yesterday I did it for possibly the last time. Montana's 2-week trial is nearing its end and the lady who tried him out loves him to bits. I brought him a peanut-butter apple (slice a small apple in half, put PB in the cut surface and stick it back together). I was expecting a wrenching experience. Here's what made it easier:

1. He looked completely happy and somehow younger. He has just joined the new pasture mates he's been hobnobbing with over the fence for a week and a half. They were all sailing around his new pasture (which has a good surface and autumn grass) at high speed and his tail was up like a banner.

2. He comes when she calls him. For 8 years I tried to get this horse to come to me in the pasture with zero luck. Rattling a treat bag, smooching, calling, waiting, walking sideways, I tried every trick I could think of. Yesterday she went to the rail and yelled "Montana!" and he came sailing in at a big lofty trot.

3. He looked me in the eye as I fed him his apple, and he was at peace. The eyes were what I fell in love with long ago as a green rider; soft and friendly and open-hearted. I felt like the message I got was, "Yeah, this is a good deal. I like this place. You can go now."

4. The prospective new owner (he still has to vet out)walked me to my car afterwards and we had a far-ranging political conversation in which we discovered total, complete, 100% agreement on everything including the current presidential campaign and the future of the world. I know we live in a democracy in which let a thousand opinions flourish, but it's comforting to find a kindred soul.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Horrible No Good Very Bad Day

And I am not exaggerating. First the horsey part: I have not been to the barn to see John all week due to bad work schedule and guilt over Montana being out on his 2-week sale trial. I can't quite understand this guilt but it has sapped the fun of horses for the moment.

Anyway today, a golden afternoon and warm, I dragged out to the barn to make amends to Johnnie for the week of zero work and attention.

What do I see but a line of tree cutting trucks like this:

except there were about 7 of them, and the din they were creating was audible blocks away. The power company had decided to trim the power line of trees and branches. There was a gigantic pile of stumps and branches at the entrance to the barn, and entirely obstructing our trail exit so that was out of the question.

I got Johnnie in anyway and stupidlytried to walk him past a gigantic chipper truck in full operation: huge diesel truck engine running, chipper gnawing away on tree trunks, truck backed in so that we had to pass verrrry close to the engine or fall in a ditch.

Well, John at first said maybe and then said no way. He just suddenly turned into horsey popcorn, boing boing prance to the edge of the ditch, prance forward toward the truck cab, and I was stuck between the chipper end of the truck and the ditch, with a horse who would go neither forward nor backward, just pop around in place being as tall as possible all the while.

Fortunately the only woman on the work crew saw my dilemma and went & asked the chipper guy to turn down the machine so we could pass. He didn't want to but she made him - hurray for bossy women!!

So I did get him mud-scraped and tacked up, and by then the chipper truck was gone although many many chainsaws were still screaming all around the edge of the property. We had a ride. Not a good ride. He was stiff and distracted. While we were riding a yearling filly got loose and ran madly all around the property, which caught John's eye and made him inattentive...

The work day...let me just say that some administrators make a sadistic habit of wasting peoples' time in pointless meetings, which seem to give joy to the admins but headaches to the victims. How about convening a whole bunch of department heads and then telling them, "We don't really have any business so let's just share..." Share what? My aggravation at being brought to this meeting? My dislike of wasting time indoors on a beautiful fall day?! Grrr.

I hope you all had a great time today to balance out the cosmic harmony. Off to comfort myself with chips and peach salsa.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

How I Spent my Lovely Saturday

This highly trained circus dog has been introduced into the picture to show the massive scale of a leaf mountain I raked up yesterday. Bear in mind that this is only one in a veritable Appenine chain of such mountains that were all around my yard by noon.

Here's a record of my mental states during annual leaf-raking:

1. Isn't this fun? Out in the fresh air, enjoying the work, I love fall yard chores! (first 20 minutes)

2. This is hard work and there are a lot of these leaves. But it's still great exercise. I coudl be out riding a horse though... (about 40 minutes in)

3. Those noisy leaf-blower things might not be such a bad idea after all; wonder if they produce greenhouse gases? (60 minutes on the dot)

4. Why doesn't someone invent a giant machine to hover over your yard, suck up leaves and send them into outer space? (hour and a half, partway into the leaf-mountain transport operation)

5. I swear I would like to cut down all these #@% $#@* trees. (remainder of the afternoon)

It was such a perfect leaf day that I could hear all around the neighborhood, the swish of lawn rakes, the sighs of the oppressed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Was this our last trail ride of the fall?

There is always a last ride out for the year prior to winter. But you never know which one it will be. What happened after this ride on Oct.4 was 2 weeks of heavy rains. Then the trails are out because horses' feet tear them up too much in mud. Plus we engage with my slipping-down phobia, one on the long list of things I picture going horribly wrong on horseback.

Here we went though, with our two gaited partners in crime, and had a leisurely plod as befits 2 midwest matrons.

This nice guy who was unloading elaborate photography equipment agreed to take a picture of us. I like the resulting photo except that John's head looks as big as a steamer trunk and my face looks like an apple dumpling. Notice photographer has some kind of roofer knee pads on his knees. Does this mean he was planning to crawl out on rocks for that perfect photo?

John and Winston conferred briefly about some mischief or other.

And my fellow matron displays yet another pair of cute riding gloves:

If this was our last ride, it had a kind of perfection. Crucial barn gossip was exchanged, updates on children were reported, gaiting of our young horses occurred, their 'little' behavior problems were analyzed, and happiness rested in our hearts like a quiet dove with folded wings.

John's 'little' behavior problem occurred just the day before, at the pasture gate: As I approached it, he came rushing up. How nice, thought I. My horse is glad to see me, lookit that. As I opened the gate, he shoved me aside like a linebacker and marched himself right past, straight across the road to a patch of green grass which he proceeded to eat as if I did not even exist.

So we have some homework to do this winter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

He's Gone; for 2 Weeks Anyway...

Today I moved my OTTB Montana to his new (for 2 weeks at least) home. Life helped me avoid emotions as I got lost on the way, got thrown onto the freeway with my trailer and all, got turned around and anxious, and was therefore so glad to find the barn that I could hardly be sad at all.

He came out of the trailer on high alert, and he can be very tall when he wants to be. But there was Jen the trainer, calm and composed, and also familiar to him, so all went well. He got put in a paddock where he has neighbors who can visit across the pipe corral tops, geldings, mares, cute ponies, a whole bunch of equine potential friends.

The potential buyer and her lovely 14-year old dressage-crazy daughter were soon there and we arranged everything to our mutual satisfaction. Daughter loves to jump, owns an OTTB who is not a talented jumper, Montana loves to jump and has talent. All good. We transferred all the tack & stuff to the new lockers and saddle racks. And I drove away from my old friend.

The 2 week thing is kind of a blessing. He may come back. He may not. During this 2 weeks my emotions will evolve and settle into a pattern. If he does come back, as my blog friend GreyHorse said, this sale was not meant to be. If he does well on his trial and is purchased, I could not ask for a nicer berth and owner for him.

Strangely the only time I cried was when I was heading back to the barn where I board the boys. It was so saddening not to be looking for that big orange profile, always so tidy and clean in the pasture no matter how muddy, always so interested yet entirely unaccommodating (would never walk even one step in my direction as I went out to halter him, though he would stare rivets at me and start drooling in anticipation of the treat).

Here he is displaying interest in food, in his new temporary paddock:

I think he is going to have fun at this barn regardless of how the trial/sale turns out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How to Sell Your Horse? I mean Pain-Wise

So I am thinking about selling my OTTB Montana. In fact I've been thinking about it for exactly four months and he has been listed as for sale for 2 months.

Now there is an interested party. She will be taking him tomorrow for a 2-week trial at her nearby boarding barn, where I know the trainer and the trainer has ridden my horse several times and also given me dressage lessons on him. I do trust the arrangement, and we have a contract protecting him and us.

But: Selling him has given me horrific nightmares. I am being visited in the night by every bad scenario I've ever dreamt about, from the paperless exam in grade school to the pants-free or topless lecture in a university classroom, to the drowning tidal wave, the falling off a roof, the evil object in the beer glass. You get the idea.

I have loved this horse with all my heart, wept on his neck through a heartbreaking divorce. He is kind and sweet and in his own way, fond of me. A horse is not a family member, but in some ways he is closer than family: he has seen me at my abject most scared (dressage shows) and most happy (extended trot, lofty canter, happy walks down the road on moonlit nights).

I have explored his most intimate parts for hygienic reasons, and he has explored the most intimate parts of my psyche through his challenges, needs, beauty, kindness, and love for peanut butter sandwiches.

It is really a bit like cutting off a limb. But I am not interested in dressage anymore except in the old sense as "training", and that I can do with Johnny. And Montana needs work to keep from getting arthritic and stiff.

The potential buyer is very loving and adores thoroughbreds, has a daughter who also rides an OTTB, and is a delightful person. It's all good except for what's bad, if you know what I mean.

And it's only a trial after all. He may be back to tug my heart strings for the rest of my or his life. But such a wrenching set of experiences lies ahead for both him and me. His nickname just between him and me has always been 'Baby'.

I'm hoping I can make the transfer to her a pleasant experience, even if it's just for the 2 weeks. When I bought him, the seller (who had owned him for a whopping 2 months, compared to my 8 years of ownership) was in floods of anxious tears and this was so upsetting to all of us that it was a miserable hour of pain. I want to start him out on a happy footing. Wish I had some of those happy drugs that Helen gave Menelaus and Telemachus in the Odyssey to stop them thinking sad thoughts.

She threw a drug into the wine bowl
They were drinking from, a drug
That stilled all pain, quieted all anger
And brought forgetfulness of every ill.
Whoever drank wine laced with this drug
Would not be sad or shed a tear that day,
Not even if his own mother and father
Should lie there dead, or if someone killed
His brother, or son, before his eyes.

(Stanley Lombardo's translation, book 4 ll.231-242)

Helen is so creepy with her drugs, and her minxiness; and I need to be alert anyway to make sure Montana gets settled and the trial-buyer gets reliable info about his habits. Gads what an experience this is going to be.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

8 Hours of Hell for a 10% Insurance Discount?

Last spring after my 55th birthday, my ever-helpful insurance agent sent me a flier about "Senior Citizen Driving Improvement" classes and how I could save 10% off my car insurance if I took them.

What a lovely idea! Unlike some other of this agent's ideas - such as, "Isn't it time to insure your Final Arrangements?? -- this one sounded OK.

So I signed us up for the class - 5-9 p.m. on two successive nights, at a local junior high school, in a science classroom with little plastic torture-chairs and a ready-made spitball on the table. Little did I know how very long 4 hours per evening can be.

The instructor was afflicted with several bad speaker-diseases including a random barking laugh and a mind-murdering habit of repetition. So our ears had approximately 7 hours of this:

"If your attention wanders, if your attention should wander or shift HA-HAH, if your attention wanders, if you become inattentive, HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!!!... until we all began to shoot glances at each other which grew more junior-high as the evenings wore on.

In between speeches we were forced to watch videos in which, for example, a UPS truck suddenly appears parked in the right-hand lane and we have to answer a quiz question about what to do:

A. Accelerate into the right hand lane
B. Slam on the brakes and swerve
C. Do something reasonable and not necessarily suicidal, even if you really hate your teacher right now.

At about 6:57 p.m. tonight, my husband offered to gouge out his own eyeballs with my yogurt spoon to create a diversion. If he had done so, we could have rinsed him off with this bit of classroom equipment:

The class overall left me with a strong desire to drive right at some (empty) UPS truck and go out to my Final Arrangements with some drama. I will have to calm myself in order to turn in my 10% discount certificate; that is the good outcome. The bad news is that we have to do a 'refresher' course every three years. that should hasten the date of the Final Arrangements quite some.

Contemplate this tableau of eager learners (click to enlarge for full effect:

"Mr. HAHA, may I have a hall-pass? I need to go kill something."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Horse Who Loves Cats

My Thoroughbred has always adored cats. It is strange to see him follow a cat with his eyes, or stand happily while a cat rubs around his legs. One time a young barn cat jumped from a stall divider onto his back, when he was standing in cross ties. This normally sensitive horse just steadied himself and sighed.

The above barn cat named 'Orangey' loves to nuzzle his face on horse's noses and Montana is never happier than when this is going on. What mysterious comfort are they sharing, these two animals from such different species, prey and predator, 1000 pounds versus 5?

This picture is from yesterday - it had rained buckets all day and finally cleared off mid-afternoon.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

October Trail Ride in Nemadji Forest

At dark o'clock this morning I did not want to go on this ride. I had nightmares all night, the aggravating kind where there is some job to do (pack a suitcase, organize a lecture) and I can't make any progress and time is running out.

Bad sleep, tired wake-up, but it was a frosty night and the morning sunbeams set everything to sparkling. So we rolled out at about 7:40 a.m. for a haul to the Nemadji State Forest, an organized trail ride with the Minnesota Walking Horse Association -- all-gaited, alla time! Woot. This is a thrill for gaited horse riders as they do go at a different speed.

An additional aspect of this ride was that my barn owner and friend/trail partner is recovering from cancer and had chemo all summer, so this was her first ride out and only second ride total since the diagnosis and brutal treatments. We had a complete blast. Here's her TWH Missy showing her advance winter coat. Missy gets a fuzzy-bunny coat that is irresistible to touch.

It was a rare day, the kind of fall day where the air is like wine and the sunlight like a shower of blessings.
Here's Rose and Missy stepping along:

We did encounter 4-wheelers all day long, but as soon as they saw us they would pull over and even shut down their engines, which we found impressive.

There was a Parelli married couple - I mean a couple who were deeply indoctrinated into Parelli teachings. They had young horses in rope halters and they did well, except for the occasional gallop off episode which did cause a few problems among the other horses. Here's Parelli dude Kevin:

He tried to ride entirely without reins for most of the day: he would just park the reins around the horn and have his 'hands-free' trail ride for as long as he could. He and his wife were both good and confident riders, but it was a little nerve-racking when things went south abruptly. At one point Kevin decided his horse needed to gallop it out, and off he took, raking along the entire string of us at a hard flatout gallop with no warning - goodbye! We had a bit of repercussions amongst the ranks.

But it was a beautiful day, with golden light, trees showing color, sandy paths, and a tragic jolliness that can only be found among people whose winter is about to close down around their heads like an ice dome.

John decided he had better eat while the eating is good, for tomorrow we may all freeze or starve. He is quite an existentialist.

I thought these three pretty TWH heads needed a photo:

Hope you are having a good ride or two this weekend, stealing a march on the relentless encroachment of winter!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Chasing Daylight

The days are 'drawing in' as my mom used to say; slower to come in the morning, and night chases day into dusk a little earlier every day. I talked with some students last weekend about this time of year, and one young woman said, "It's beautiful, but why is it so sad?"

I'm not sure. Persephone has returned to the Underworld and winter will surely come. On a more mundane note, utility bills be higher than ever. And our afternoon ride is a mad dash for the last shreds of daylight.

Yesterday we encountered this strangely grumpy photographer dude who just stood and stared at us belligerently while I tried to get the above picture of the creek running high with rain.

He looked like Father Time himself, all grey and wrinkly and with an attitude.

Hope your autumn rides are going well and Father Time isn't chasing you too hard these days!