Saturday, February 28, 2009

Is it a Tricycle or a Horse?

This extremely old photo shows me and my 2 brothers on our state of the art tricycles. It just kills me for so many reasons.

One of them is that I've been thinking about horses and imagination. My tricycle was always an imaginary horse who made whinnying noises and got fed handfuls of grass. Horses were imaginary to me for so long!

To some extent horses are always imaginary: we're always dreaming of something that Might Just Happen, like a First level dressage test in the 70's, or that Perfect Trail Ride, or a horse who stays fit and healthy into his 30's. Some of these...might just happen indeed.

But imagine a flying horse! How far from reality is this? I love this Rubens' painting of Perseus rescuing Andromeda: place your bets on whether this enormous horse beehind could ever take flight!

But boy could he pull a heavy wagon if called upon!

Anybody who has ever ridden knows the feeling of flight though; the Pegasus story is not that far from the phenomenology of riding a galloping horse, or going over a jump, or even taking a spill.

On the theme of Pegasus, here's some thoroughbred porn: Fusaichi Pegasus who won the Kentucky Derby in 2000 -- don't you just want to touch those muscles??!

Horses, imagination, dreams, beauty, flight, fantasies. Here's a lovely short animation about the birth of Pegasus; a nicer combination of color and music and minimal profile animation technique, you could not ask for.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"He looks great! (for a thoroughbred)"

This was the general summary comment Montana got from our vet yesterday at the annual spring inoculations and wellness check. Our vet does not like thoroughbreds. She has been our vet since I got Montana 8 years ago and on every visit she has managed to use this phrase, "...for a thoroughbred".

"Nice horse!.....for a thoroughbred."

"Good muscling!....for a thoroughbred."

"Nice manners!....for a thoroughbred."

I now wait for that other muckboot to drop, so to speak, whenever she says something good about him.

Yesterday my friend Kathy and I got in early on the spring vetting and thereby avoided the Circus Maximus which is the general barn vet visit for all comers. This mess takes all day and is quite aggravating as you cannot know when you will be 'called' and have to wait around in a queue that is always reforming.

So yesterday was quite civilized: Montana, John, Winston, and Cody like clockwork; and Kathy and I split the farm call fee. Saving a little money and a lot of time.

Whether it's due to his track experiences during the racing days, his natural temperament, or my superb training skills hahahaha, Montana is extremely well-behaved for vetting. Shots, pokings and proddings, blood drawn for Coggins, he stands like a soft-eyed statue. So Vet usually has to say something nice eventually, and then take it back with her signature qualification.

During John's time, Montana had to wait in the round pen so I could give him his supplements and turn him out again. He became 'happy' in the round pen, first having several energetic rollabouts, and then prancing, then rearing, bucking, and rooting vigorously in the snow for tidbits. I tried so hard to get a picture of him rearing because it was beautiful to see. But I just missed it every time.

Here he is on a prance-about:

And coming to see if I am ready to turn him out yet:

You can see that "I'm so full of myself" expression that says Happy Horse to me.

And here's poor John suffering the humiliation of wearing someone else's monogrammed halter; his winter coat is starting to shed out:

Monday, February 16, 2009

No Business Like Show Business!

I have just renewed all the memberships required to show in dressage in my little Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. To wit:

--United States Dressage Federation: Ka-ching!
--United States Equestrian Federation: Ka-ching!
--North Woods Dressage Association: Ka-ching!
--Central States Dressage and Eventing Association: Ka-ching!

All of which would really make me feel like a bona fide dressage rider were it not for the dismal evidence recorded in the schooling show photo above. I hope I have kept myself small enough so you can hardly see me.

Heads-up for the welter of excuses: "It was so hot that day! Montana slimed the waist of my riding pants so I had to have my shirt-tail out to cover it. The piano hands are my mother's fault: damn those mandatory piano lessons! The chair seat is chair's fault. The slumped shoulders are the fault of my existential predicament: stuck at a horse show and forced to ride a test not of my own devising, oh the angst and horror, the horror. The bulging belly is the fault of the show food: fried cheese curds, dang you to heck!"

Only Montana looks cheerful, probably because he is yukking it up about my riding.

But hope springs eternal. That photo is 2 years old and oh how much my riding has improved hahahahahaha. So now around the barn when the girls ask, "Are you showing this summer?", I answer, "I hope to go to a couple of shows."

Translation: I hope to overcome my show nerves, fear of bolting, fear of hauling horses over the windy bridge to Wisconsin, reluctance to commit, reluctance to spend show fee money, inability to decide on a sensible range of tests, and complete lack of confidence and actually take my dressage horse to a dressage show. Why is it so hard?

The welter of emotions, that's why. Because alongside all the negativity and fear and loathing, there is this little dream of glory, this imaginary image: myself, floating around the ring, the railbirds not entertained this time but favorably impressed, my horse not a sainted martyr but a 'happy athlete' (from USDF show standards). I can dream can't I?

But meanwhile I have also renewed two fun memberships: Minnesota Trail Riders Association and MN Walking Horse Association (gaited horses really). These two groups are all about joy and they get out there and ride. I also dream of seeing this sight a lot this summer:

The days are getting longer and the sun is winning. Yay!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day or is it Lupercalia?

GreyHorseMatters has posted this lovely little Valentine for everyone she knows, and since I am one of her admirers I'm posting it along.

Valentine's Day is a weird one, a holiday that I suspect of being packaged to elicit money from our pockets. Now picture this:

You are an ancient Roman woman, whether young or a matrona. You wake up on the 14th or 15th of Februa, the month of purifications, and dress up in your best gown and jewelry. You go stand out by the street in your neighborhood and wait. The spring sun is hot on your bare shoulders. The street is crowded; your head is buzzing from the early wine and the excitement of Lupercalia.

Here they come! not on horseback but on foot: running in short togas: the two young men of the Lupercal. They are hitting every woman they can reach with strips of bloody animal hide, goat or dog, from their recent sacrifice on the Palatine. You hope to be hit with a whip and sure enough! WHACK. Good luck and abundance for the entire year!!

Isn't it romantic?

So now go eat some chocolate!!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

This will make you sick

3PennyJane points us to a story that you might find as the plot of a credibility-testing novel but is (alas) fact:

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has spent a good part of his time on the clock opposing enforcement of the Horse Protection Act so that his donors in the Tennessee Walker Torture Corporation can operate unimpeded.

Why? Because they give him money, of course; it's the American way folks. Here's a taste of the article:

“McConnell probably has caused more problems for horse protection single-handedly than any other person. He set the cause of horse protection back by years,” said Donna Benefield, administrative director of the Horse Protection Commission, a USDA-certified inspection organization in Gallatin, Tenn.

“He has supporters here (in Tennessee) — financial supporters, if not people who can vote for him — who are doing illegal things and don’t want to get caught,” Benefield said. “It’s very important to them that the law be loosely enforced. Sen. McConnell has been their champion in that.”

McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, who stands for re-election Nov. 4, declined to be interviewed for this story or answer the written questions that his office requested.

And if you want to see something strange - beautiful horses moving so weirdly it boggles the mind - check out this video of the finalists and winners at a 2007 TWH national competition:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Wake Up Little Susie!"

Montana was sound asleep when I went for my lesson a few days ago. He sleeps with his eyes open but glazed or clouded over, and he snores loudly. It is the creepiest thing waking him up.

John came to help:

Then here comes a miracle: 1000 pounds hoisted up into the air on those 4 little legs:

Resulting in eventually this: 'OK, you woke me up and put these boots on me, so let's get this over with."

Is there anything prettier than a booted up horse? What is so darn sexy about it?