Monday, December 29, 2008

Bless me, Dressage Goddess...

...for I have sinned. It has been 3 weeks since my last lesson. I have sinned by omission and commission.

OMISSION: I have not been riding my dressage horse Montana, and lo, I have not practiceth my arena work, half-halts, leg yields, transitions, and verily I have done a big Lebowski on all my responsibilities in this area. It has been too freakin cold for much of anything, but yes, every sinner thinks they have a good excuse.

COMMISSION: I have eateneth of the cheesecake, the pumpkin pie, the cheesy potato dish, the 7-layer jello (yes she did it again), the Black Forest cake, the fudge, the mixed nuts, yea verily even of the bento boxes have I made myself a gluttonous feast.
And sundry other sources of evil fat and calories have I touched with my hands and lusted after in my heart. The rendering of which is that I am a sad blob before thine eyes oh Dressage Goddess.

And so my penance was to wallow around in the arena on the back of an impatient and distracted horse, whose eyes were themselves tempted by amazing almost biblical visions outside the arena doors: the Four Horses of the Apocalypse galloping by repeatedly, the Lost Snow-Plow as big as an elementary school forging and backing on the road outside, the dropping of great wads of snow off the arena roof in a screaming high wind.

I have resolved to improve my ways. So lunch today was miso soup and an orange. But I got so much exercise peeling the orange that I feel a bit faint, and a slice of that cake on the kitchen counter would revive me so nicely...

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Scent of a Horse's Neck

Little Offbeat Horse Pleasure #487: The scent and feel of a horse's neck. Montana's neck smells a little like clove and nutmeg. Johnnie's has a note of freshly cut grass.

My mother, who never did meet my horses in person but who loved horses from afar all her life, used to say to me, "Give Montana a kiss on the neck for me". He now expects these kisses and accepts them graciously like all other acts of worship that come to His Highness.

And on another topic: Here's a picture of the new sport soon to hit the dog Olympics: Competitive Treat-Chewing. Which dog can chew his treat up the fastest and then make an attempt upon the other guy's treat?

It always works out the same way. Rufus the New Boy a.k.a BadAss, finishes his, takes Gabey's and walks off. Gabe is left looking surprised: "Why?? Why would you take my treat??" Rufus: "Because I Can."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Click on the picture to see:

1. That I did not realize how tangled John's forelock was with ice blobs until after I took this picture.

2. That we were f-f-freezing as I tried to set up a cute photo and I finally just gave up and snapped his profile any old way;

3. That we are wishing you a very Merry Christmas!! Stay warm and cozy, give your horses special treats, and enjoy the magic stillness of a winter's night when the soft dark silence is filled with starry promise.

Much love to all my blogging friends!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Storm is Past!

Here you see the storm front's rear end so to speak. Yesterday I finally got out to the barn for some quality time with two feisty equines. Both of them get rammy when the weather is harsh and they aren't getting worked. I loved just getting my hands into their winter coats, knocking the snowballs off their feets, feeding them their lovely beet pulp concoction, and letting them soothe my soul.

Leading Montana back to the pasture we were walking into a 30 mph wind at 5 degrees above zero. He tucked his face down and arched his neck, and danced the whole way. It was like, "I'll see your Wind, and raise you Fire!".

John was disposed to translate his energy into merriment, so he tried to nibble my coat buttons, the beet pulp buckets, and his lead rope. Then he put his nose on the back of my sock cap as if to say, "You KNOW, I could so take this off!!!" He's a terrible cap stealer.

It had been one whole week since I saw these 2 rascals, due to weather and final exams. The yard was not entirely snow-plowed so they were walking in chest-high drifts for part of their journey to the hitching post. They did not seem to mind. I drove home once again amazed at the difference a horse makes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thank God they made It Home

The Roman Stoics used to say that anyone we care about is "a hostage to Fortune".

Last night at 10 p.m. my two hostages to Fortune finally made it home through the killer blizzard. What would normally have been a 5 hour drive took 10 hours; they were sometimes driving 25 mph on freeway with a posted speed limit of 70.

Every semi that blasted past them flung a tsunami of wet snow on their Ford Focus windshield. They were in near white-out conditions most of the way.

You can imagine my state of mind. I wanted them to stop and get a room but they are young, optimistic, and bull-headed. And they made it.

That was a good sight: dragging suitcases up the driveway because the snowplows had blocked the entrance and they parked across the street. I had cooked a supper for them but they were too jangled to eat. So dinner tonight is taken care of!

Little Rufus, my new puppy, was at first shy of these two big lads, and ran into his crate to see how things would go. It did not take him long to see the opportunity to add two members to his cult following and he turned on the tricks...lick hands, place chin on knee, dance in place, curl up in a new lap. They duly pronounced him a handsome dog and praised his silky coat. Gabey nearly had a conniption fit but he was getting his share of lap-time and attention too.

Now I get to kick into high gear with cooking for young lads: something I love to do.

I feel like I aged 10 years yesterday night.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Say Hello to my Little Friend!"

Yes this is Gabey's present from Santa, and the 'Scarface' quote just about sums him up. You remember that scene when Al Pacino bursts out of his office in the druglord mansion, after burying his face in a grain-bucket load of cocaine, and starts shooting everyone?

That's about the size of it. This little dude has a personality like Scarface and Gabey is in full retreat.

I decided Gabey's life was too quiet - we are gone to work all day, and he was getting more and more inactive. Well this will liven him up for sure. Rufus is 5 months old and was the last of his litter, and he has learned to tell puppies what to do. He is cute as a bug and I believe he saw snow for the first time in his life yesterday. It took him about 3 minutes to discover the fun factor of snow: you can jump in it, roll in it, bury your head in it, and even eat it. Gabe got into it as well, which warmed my heart.

Rufus is in this life for the thrill of it, whereas Gabriel is here for love. They will have a good effect on one another - I hope. As soon as they figure out that the same kibble is in the other guy's bowl, and there's no need to commandeer that bowl just for fun.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Abominable Snow-Dog

Yesterday I took Gabey out for a very long trudge through the snow, to our favorite cemetery where I let him run around off the leash a bit. He can't see over snow drifts so he will stand on his hind legs and peer - when he hears a goose calling, or a dog bark off in the distance. it's so cute but I could not get a picture of it.

Here he is wearing his little snow jacket and has just finished rolling and burrowing in the white stuff.

Little does he know: Santa is bringing him a very special present today. I will post about it later if all goes as planned - how mysterious can I be?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Horses and their Coats

My horses live out 24/7 in a pretty fierce winter. Their coats are, to the eye and hand, quite different: Montana the thin-skinned thoroughbred grows a lighter coat, John the tough Mountain Horse gets a fluffy bunny coat early in winter.

But it surprised me to find that Montana's coat was actually doing a better insulating job on this day last week, because he had the snow pack without icicles on his back. It had been snowing lightly for about 4 hours when I took the pictures.

Johnnie had large thick icicles on his sides, which means that melting had occurred and probably his skin had become cold. I wonder if his winter coat is more impressive to look at or feel than it is to fend off cold??

Montana's coat must have guard hairs that keep that snow on the surface. Once snow is there and conglomerated, it actually warms them. Winter horses! A conundrum. What I know is how much they love that warm beet pulp. Slurp!!!!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

When Horses Hurt Us

Several blogger friends have been involved in horse-related accidents recently so I thought it might be opportune to swap war stories. Could this innocent looking face ever have scared the daylights out of me, to the point where I could not bring myself to even put a saddle on his back let alone think about riding?

In a word, YES.

When I had owned my OTTB Montana for about 6 months, I felt confident enough to ride him all alone in the arena. So one day as I was doing this, trotting along all brave and proud of myself, a barn girl chose to run by the open arena door in a flash of white: white t-shirt, white sweatpants, white shoes, and a flying blonde ponytail to top it off.

This white vision Montana caught out the side of his eye and it obviously unnerved him so off we went at a sudden gallop, with sharp turns to avoid hitting the walls. I lost the reins and got them back, lost both stirrups and never even tried to get them back (no mental ability at that point), and eventually was thrown off on a sharp turn.

To her credit, the all-white girl came running back and caught him which was not hard, he was just standing around with his eyes bugging out. I had landed on my shoulder and head, tore a cruciate ligament in my right shoulder, and was shaken up to the bottom of my soul. Tears, fear, knowing I had to "get back on", nausea, desire to sell horse immediately, bitter regret that this is what my lifelong dream of horse ownership had come to, all boiled away inside me.

I got back on and we walked a little, with me no doubt telegraphing my emotions to him quite clearly. He looked like he felt sick too.

This was not the end but the beginning of my problem, because I had lost the desire to ride. Completely.

I went to the public library and got books on basic riding, and on riding after an accident, and on sports psychology. Being a book person, reading is always my safety net. I continued to visit Montana almost every day, but instead of riding I just sat outside his stall (sometimes crying if no one was around, sometimes singing to him), and with his door open so that he could reach out and snuffle my hair when he felt like it.

I decided to set myself the smallest goals possible, and count it as a huge victory if I achieved them. So, being able to saddle him and lead him into the arena, perhaps even mount up and sit there for a few minutes, was a huge victory. Being able to walk him in a circle: even more huge!! Kudos to me!! Ice cream time!! And that's how we worked it out over a longer period of time than I would like to admit. He was fine as long as I didn't seem nervous. I also decided that although horses are sensitive, they aren't psychic; it's OK to be nervous if you do everything in your power not to project. La la la! Laugh a little, even if it a tad hysterical sounding.

One device a sports psychology writer described was this: Build a mental space called "My Riding Resource Room". Imagine a room with everything you enjoy: it's your favorite color, has a comfy chair, has your favorite snacks and tea, nice lighting. Into this room you will permit only the positive things about horses and riding: a favorite photo on the wall, your favorite saddle. The horse himself may or may not be allowed to poke his head in the window, depending! In this room is your horse-related joy. Visit this room often in your mind. Visit your Riding Resource Room before you come near your horse. Visit it after a ride and see if anything good has been added.

I painted my R.R. room burgundy, and put an overstuffed chair in it, and an espresso maker, and pictures of beautiful thoroughbreds on the walls. The saddle made it but not the horse, not for a long time. Finally he was allowed to peek in the window.

These wonderful animals -- we love them to bits, and when they hurt us it goes deeper than physical pain. And the fear can be very hard to manage. I still visit the R.R. Room 7 years after my worst fall and having had a few other falls which weren't so bad. It still comforts me. And the idea of getting/staying in touch with the basic joy of horses still seems to me the most important thing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sleeping Horses

Both my horses are enthusiastic lie-down-and-sleepers. Here you see Montana yesterday, looking like a big orange chicken in the haypile in the sun. His eyes were completely glazed over (typical), he was snoring lightly, and he took forever to wake up. Do horses dream??

While I was taking pictures of him look who got in the way:

My other gifted and talented equine sleeper. John will sleep like he has been shot in the field: legs sticking straight out and head and neck at random angle.

Come to think of it, everyone in my immediate world has a flair for sleeping. My sons can go for 12 hours straight, my husband can sleep till noon if not interfered with, and I can happily go to bed at 8:30 p.m. (but can not sleep past dawn, to save my life). And one of us wins the all-time Sleeping Academy Award:

Gabey's conscience is so clear that he can lie down, close his eyes, and be snoring within seconds. Now that is a blameless life.