Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pleasant company

I answered the phone this morning and received a cheerful invitation to tag along on a 4-H trail ride. Hmmmm....

The plan was to do a big swing through the pheasant ranch, passing right by the farm coming and going, so all I had to do was be ready at noon.

The main question for me, given the wind gusting along from 15-30 mph, was what kind of ride would I have. I finally decided that given a group of calm Quarter Horses, I probably wouldn't die. So I said yes. And proceeded to sweat my way through the next several hours, coming very close to not going.
I don't know why, but trail rides someplace strange and new don't freak me out. Trail rides moving along at a good steady trot - not a problem. Riding where I have a job to do (moving cows, etc.) seldom bothers me.

Trail rides close to home, and walk-walk-walking seriously bother me.
And a good stiff wind didn't help matters any.

I caught Sunny, who was taking a nap, and saddled his sleepy self. Then I debated...
  • Option A: Ride down the road to meet everyone - and somebody's always late, so I'd inevitably wind up down at the starting point next to a bunch of strange horses and trailers, trying to get an antsy horse to stand still...
  • Option B: Wait at the end of the driveway and get on a snorty, blowy, excited pony when they got there...
  • Option C: Ride around until I could see they'd started, and ride to meet them.
I elected to go with C. And Sunny in the driveway was for 15 minutes or so contentedly plodding around, ignoring the wind and all of the tiny little seedpods blowing down out of the cottonwood trees - between the seeds and the fluff, it looked like snow and felt like sleet. Eventually, I could see bodies moving in my direction, so we moseyed their way.

It's taken me a while, but I've worked out a strategy that most of the time keeps us out of trouble. One, find a spot where Sunny's not going to be crowded inviting him to kick someone. Two, make sure that spot is near horses that completely ignore him; if they ignore him, he reciprocates. Three, let him look at whatever he wants on a loose rein, as long as he's going the speed I want, and isn't fussing. And four, try to breath.

He was a bit jiggy as soon as I turned him to join the group, but I solved that by sticking him alongside the two lead horses and letting him walk without grabbing at him. The illusion of being in front usually slows him down just slightly, and up there all I have to worry about is being run into from behind or having him spook at something and jump into the horse next to him.

Thankfully, Sunny is not, in general, a spook. And even with the wind blowing at us so hard it was difficult to hear, he walked along without doing a single one of those horrid slidey skating stops some of them are so good at.

For the most part, it was a good ride - he wanted to go fast a couple of times, and got snotty when I made him bend instead of letting him go charging away across country. One crowhop got him one swift whack on the shoulder with the flat of my hand - he knows better! and that was the worst of it.

By far my biggest worries were having him start something and cause a wreck with one of the kids - there were three grade school kids riding, one just out of kindergarten, and the other two probably in mid-elementary somewhere, as well as a couple of older teens, one of whom is NOT a rider - or having one of the others spook, and being part of a chain reaction. (I should say, all of the kids had one or more adult accompanying except the two teenagers, and everyone, horses included, had excellent trail manners.)

Anyway, we rode for about an hour and a half, and other than that one snorty bit, and the occasional jig, Sunny behaved himself very well. We passed or crossed the following potentially scary things: 2 kennels full of barking dogs, 7 running deer (multiple times, as we kept spooking them out in front of us), a large expanse of bright white gravel surrounding two large white tanks making funny noises in the wind, a black plastic bag flapping away industriously, and multiple large rocks, badger holes, rabbits, pheasants, etc. All of which have been known to terrify horses I've ridden at one time or another.

Yes, he looked around more than the QHs. And yes, the bit of jigging was more than any of them did. However, he didn't spook at anything, including the plastic bag - which was next to us and less than four feet away when we passed it. And although he was part of a group, he was the only horse in the bunch that did not have a known companion along to provide reassurance.

Sorry - no pictures. I wanted both hands free just in case.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Riding in the car

Anybody else follow Equestrian Ink? Mugwump's post reminded me of something I used to do growing up - and I still do it occasionally even now. Any guesses as to what?

I won't keep you in suspense.

When I wasn't happily turning pages - yes, I'm one of those annoying people who can read absolutely anywhere, including the back of a big yellow bus bouncing down a dirt road without getting the slightest bit sick - I was staring out the window, imagining myself galloping along over whatever terrain we happened to be driving past.

The color of the horses I rode varied through the years - I think a blue roan with a flowing, jet black mane and tail was my mount of choice for a long time after I read Zane Grey's Valley of the Wild Horses, and there were bays, steel grays, sorrels and buckskins now and then. I don't remember every daydreaming paints or palaminos, though - too much white to keep clean of grass stains and mud, even in my imagination - or possibly, there just weren't too many nice specimens of either around where I happened to be? Whatever the reason, my imaginary horses were usually more earth-toned than not.

These days my out-the-window mount is most often a bright red chestnut - he has the requisite flowing mane and tail, and if he's on the round side and not terribly tall, he suits me just fine. Of course, in my fantasies, Sunny's usually a bit more cooperative....

How about you? Did you/do you daydream in technicolor about sailing across ditches and charging up hillsides while the wheels turn round?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Book Review: a second from Ireland

It's late, but it's still Friday :)

I was chatting with my sister last night, and she reminded me of this one - one of the first books by this particular author that I read. She's come a long way, and so have her characters....

Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts

If you like your heroes strong and dominating, and your heroines spunky but feminine, Travis and Adelia may be right up your barn aisle. Adelia, orphaned at a young age, comes to America to live with her uncle after her elderly aunt dies. A natural with animals, but especially horses, she's thrilled to find herself assisting Paddy with his duties on a Maryland Thoroughbred farm. Until that is, she runs smack into the farm's owner Travis Grant.

When hard-headed object meets imovable rock... sparks fly, of course. Add in some Kentucky Derby excitement and a cast that includes plenty of interesting two-legged and four-legged characters, and you have a good, if a bit dated, romance - #81 from Silhouette, if you can believe it.
Something less fluffy's on tap for next week, but this has been a good fluff week.

Now I have to go water the cat - at least she's informing me from the general direction of the bathtub that she's ready for her bedtime drink. And there's thunder, so I suppose I should unplug the computer....

A quiet night

To change it up some, I rode in one of the bigger pastures tonight - a little more space, and something different to see. Lots of walk and trot and bending. Usually Sunny's really good clockwise, but tonight he was extremely hollow - to the point of tipping his nose to the outside. Counter-clockwise, which is usually the stiffer of his sides, was about normal, although stellar compared to going right.

Not sure what was up, but we circled, large and small, spirals, etc. and worked on bending until he was giving his nose. I suppose he could have been stiff from the unaccustomed long trotting he did yesterday....

In any case, about 45 minutes. Pudgy actually broke a (very) light sweat. He can't be working too hard, he's still hanging out to get all his itchy spots scratched after I unsaddle.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Feeling Brave

It was a beautiful afternoon - 70's, light breeze, not too many bugs. And quite honestly, I was bored going round in circles. So I opened the gate and out we went. I wasn't sure how far we'd get - maybe weaving between the cottonwoods lining the drive. But Sunny still felt good underneath me, so after a few minutes of waffling, off we went.

We walked the few hundred yards up to were the fenceline divides the farm from the neighbor's pheasant hunting fields. They'd mowed last fall, and there are lovely, grassy, car-width trails winding around about a mile square area quartered by a four-way intersection smack in the middle. It's great for riding, and I figured I'd at least have a soft landing should I part ways unexpectedly.

Sunny's familiar with it, although it's been a while, but when he stepped out nicely onto the grass, I asked him for an easy trot - walking is just asking for trouble. For about a half mile he jogged along on a loose rein, which was great. And in fact, other than a couple of understandable sidesteps when pheasants exploded up from under his feet, he was doing great. We even had a nice canter up the little hill.

Unfortunately, as we bent around the curve that takes you off toward the road and a crossing to the next section, he got squirrelly. I think, had we had company, he'd have been fine, and had I really gotten after him, he'd have been fine. But I wasn't quite that brave. We did circles until he decided to focus a bit better, but he didn't want to come back to me, and the circles bulged increasingly hard toward home. And then there were deer, and bagfuls of small, really annoyed birds - hopefully we didn't upset any nests!

After a bit it was pretty clear I wasn't really accomplishing anything, he just kept getting more anxious (oh, for a really, really, really long hill climb to send him up!), so we did half-halts until I got a good whoa, and I got off.

I circled him some more on the ground, and then we meandered back toward home for a ways. He didn't pull, didn't try to run me over, but he had that anxious look around his eyes. After we got through the longer grass, away from where we kicked up the deer, I got back on - he stood nicely on a loose rein - and we practiced making some more big round circles. Then we walked home. Any time he wanted to go faster, we did some more circles.

So I copped out and got off. But on the plus side, I got back on. I suspect a big part of him getting high was my fault, because I was almost expecting him to try to take off for home once we turned.

Anxious rider, anxious horse.

And once I was holding him back, that just made things worse. I do need him to come back to me, but I also want to keep that lovely, forward going horse who moves right out with his ears up and minimal contact.

And bigger picture? He was happy to go. Not one whinny, not one balky step. The first half and the last quarter of the ride went great.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Storm


No riding yesterday - I dawdled too long, and the thunderstorms moved in. Although I did run out and ended up with some nifty video of the horses silhouetted against the sky. Actually, I hung out down by the tree grove for about 20 minutes getting rained on, because once I was down there I didn't want to walk back up and over the hill - lots of thunder & lightening right overhead...

I scooted back to the truck super quick when the first cell moved off, and good thing, too - the next one didn't just patter down gently - the sky opened up and dropped a small lake! I drove back to town about 20 miles an hour, with the wipers on full.

video

video

video

So, let's see - I don't think I mentioned that while I was gone T bumped into a friend of ours who lives down the road not far from the farm - the guy who started Sunny for me. We're wanting to have Amyra started a little more formally sometime soon, and I wouldn't mind having D do it. Instead, he tried to sell T a horse.

Actually, it's not entirely a bad idea - this is apparently a steady-Eddie not-t00-big, not-too-small grade gelding. Very gentle, lots of trail miles, good with kids. From the sounds of him exactly what we were looking for a couple of years ago. Sigh.

And T likes the idea - it would mean he could ride with me right away. We'll see. If negotiations get serious, I'll get pictures.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday - No bull? No, BIG bull!

The new neighbor
And yes, he is as massive as he looks!

After some more thought, I decided to switch back to my favorite western saddle tonight. I was hoping maybe Sunny's grown up and filled out enough since I last tried it on him that it would fit a bit better.
Doesn't he look just thrilled?

Luck was with me. When I unsaddled, lo and behold, a nice even sweat pattern. :) So now I know what I'll use next trail ride or cow-moving opportunity.

J's granddaughter was still there, so after I saddled and walked him around a little to make sure he was copacetic with his the different rig, I tossed her up and we walked some more. Tonight, no squeaking, and she remembered to kiss to him to ask him to move forward (kissing being more neutral than trying to explain "squeeze with your legs" at this point). I can listen for a kiss and he'll start walking when I do. But I wasn't sure what he'd do if she decided to really dig her heels in.

After her ride, she and J were off for town for supper, so I had the field to myself without any small people underfoot to worry about. I went back for Sunny's bridle, and the mounting lesson from last night apparently stuck, because he was rock steady.

I'm not sure exactly how long I rode - we worked on some of the same stuff as yesterday, adding some spiral in/spiral outs and . He wanted to be done after half an hour, starting to pull for the gate, but other than that it was a good evening.

Saturday

No riding for me, although the weather cleared up beautifully by 5. When I got to the farm, J's granddaughter came running out. She's about 10, and very sweet, but she's not a farm kid. She was excited to see the horses, though.

And of course, she wanted to ride if I was going to. Unfortunately, she doesn't have any idea of what is and is not a good idea - running under them has evidently happened in the past. (gulp!) But with the rest of the horses in the lot, I figured it would be safe enough to give her a ride around the pasture on Sunny. At least that way, there'd be only one set of hooves for her to end up under.

When she saw Sunny standing there with just his halter on she was a little doubtful. Apparently, you need to have a saddle to keep from falling off the horse, and he also needed a metal thing in his mouth to keep the him from biting.


And she wasn't sure she wanted to try without both of those. So I hopped on and demonstrated that it was possible a) not to fall off, and b), that I didn't get bitten.

And she really did want to ride. Several squeaks and shrieks later, she was up, with a big grin on her face. Bless Sunny, he stood very patiently while we figured out the logistics of getting her on. He likes kids, and doesn't ever seem to mind when they make odd noises - but thank goodness he's not any taller!


We walked a few slow laps around the field while J took pictures.

Sunny got plenty of pats and praise for being a good boy. So that was my ride for the evening. Better luck today, I hope!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Catching up

Okay - I'm down to only 47 new blog posts to read. Some of you guys are way to prolific! Just kidding, as H would say. But getting caught up on a week of horse happenings may take me a day or two!

I got my horse time in yesterday. Headed out to the farm eager to try out some of the exercises Mary showed me. Brought the horses in - they met G's new bull, who is in isolation from the cows (he's lonely) across the fence in the lot where the yearling calves used to live. I was a bit surprised to see this huge red guy in their instead of the four little heifers, but he just hung out and socialized. At one point, he and Amyra were sniffing noses, and he must have smelled good, because I swear she licked him.

Anyway, penned the herd up in the lot, and took an English-saddled Sunny out into our usual field. He proceeded to be a pill. Wouldn't stand to be mounted, and once I was finally up he was all stiff and on his toes. So we spent twenty minutes doing a "feet will stay planted while I get on" reminder.

But he still felt... not hunchy, but all sort of tense underneath me. So I pulled his saddle off, and he gave this big sigh and started licking his lips. I wasn't giving up, though. I hopped on bareback - he stood perfectly, and we worked on big walk, small walk, half-halts and walk trot transitions, along with some neck suppleing exercises for about 45 minutes.

I've been thinking about this. Sunny's usually only really fussy about things when he's uncomfortable. The saddle itself fits him, but there are a couple of other things I can try. First, I need to get a longer girth - he may slim down some, but I think the one I have is a bit too short for him, and using the extender is a) rubbing a spot in the stirrup panel, and b) setting the girth off center.

Second, I need a wither-relief pad. He's so round, that by the time I've ridden for even a few minutes, the pad has worked its way tight over his withers. Really tight - even when I've left a nice tent in it when I saddle.

And third, I need to find a breastplate that really adjustst to fit him well, or figure out how to make the one I have fit better. He's mutton-withered, and fat as he is, the saddle just wants to slide round when I mount unless I have it girthed super tight. Neither over-tightening or slipping can be comfortable. A well fitting breastplate should help that problem some.

Other than that, it was a successful evening. And if it's not raining too hard this afternoon, we'll try again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm back!

It was a marvelous week with my folks. I had a fantastic time - sorry for no updates while away, dial-up is not terribly blog friendly! But I had a wonderful time, I have plenty of pictures, and I actually got to RIDE :)

It was cold in MI - but there was enough sunshine to make it bright, and the silver lining to the low temps and chill breezes was the ravening hordes of mosquitoes and black flies didn't get the chance to descend. It actually snowed over the weekend. Not enough to stick, but enough to sting exposed skin.

I'll cover the horse aspects first, so you can all stop reading when you come to the mushrooming, etc. - aren't you glad you don't have to be polite and sit through all the vacation pics? *grin*

So, I think I mentioned that I spoke to an old friend when I was planning this trip, and she invited me to come ride while I was there. This is the entryway to her place - she has (oh, pardon the drool marks) an indoor arena. Sigh....
In the ten years of so since I'd been there, they've added an outdoor arena, as well.
The pretty girl with her head out the stall door is Geminesse, a 20+ year old Arabian, who I rode some as a three year old (she laid down - not her best moment). That white mark on her forehead is a perfect number 1. I actually rode her half-sister, Scherzo, but she was feeling a bit camera shy, and all I captured was a brown blur.

I was able to ride on two different days, and Mary was kind enough to provide me with some very helpful comments and some exercises to work on with Sunny. I apparently have a great seat, but need to be more comfortable with taking firm contact - too many years of droopy western reins :(

It was amazing to ride a horse that had finish - Scherzo, at 18, has been shown to several levels of dressage, and, when her rider actually manages to find the right combination of aids, collects beautifully.

I'd hoped to have more pictures of riding, but we got so involved chatting and riding that we were unsaddled and out of the barn both days by the time we remembered the camera.

She introduced me to all her other horses - she also still has Little Fred, her old endurance horse, who she'd just retired when I was last there. Fred was nearly twenty then, and she sent him down to work in a therapeutic riding program for a number of years. They loved him, but when he turned 29, he came back to live with her. At 30+, he has no back teeth and gums his alfalfa cubes and equine senior, and he's in gorgeous, round, happy condition. All (not just old) horses should look so good!
What else?

Well, there was lots of this on the way there and the way back.

'Tis the season...

See the morel?

Lake Michigan at Seul Choix Point

We went down to the lake the afternoon before I left. The wind was whipping, the water was roaring, and the swell was probably about 7-8' rolling in. You couldn't hear yourself think, but it sure was gorgeous.

There were PUPPIES,
And kitties...
And then there was this face - no photoshopping here, honest! Elton has the biggest, sweetest, goofiest grin, ever! (And I'm not actually holding him down - just rubbing his neck so he'd stay upright and not flop upside down and grin at me that way.)
Elton says, "Don't worry - be happy!"

My folks volunteer two days a week at the Schoolcraft County Humane Society. You can read all about the shelter at their website, so I'll just say it's a great group of people doing wonderful things for the community, human and critters alike. Over 2,000 pets placed since they opened their doors. I went along and walked dogs both days - about a mile each for the big dogs, and not quite so far for the smaller ones - boy, were my legs tired! The first day I walked with my dad, so we finished early enough I was able to go in and get "cat-scanned" in the adolescent cat room.
That's about how I feel this afternoon! Not sure you'll get a Friday book review this week or not. I have lots of unpacking to do, and of course, some horse time to get in yet. And I'm so behind on what everyone else is up to. I have lots of catching up to do...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Book Review: happy memories

How many of us as little girls poured over horse books? I know I did. Sitting in the book-lined living room last night exchanging stories and news with my folks, I was pleased to see a few old childhood friends still had their places. I pulled one out to leaf through, and ended up spending an hour or so last night catching up. I even found the beginnings of a school report on Clydesdales tucked between the pages - sadly, my handwriting hasn't improved since what I'm guessing was 3rd grade!

Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry (Illustrated by Wesley Dennis)
There are plenty of horse encyclopedias out there with beautiful pictures that will inform you in somewhat sterile prose about the horse breed of your choice. This isn't an encyclopedia. Nor is it exhaustive, but it has a charm all its own. Each of the 24 equine types represented is given roughly four pages of space. From exotic Arabians and sturdy Morgans, wiry polo ponies and massive Clydesdales, to the lowly burros and recalcitrant mules, Henry treats each with reverence and sometimes humor. And better still, with story. The American Saddle Horse (five gaited horses - anyone know, is this still what they're called, or are they now Saddlebreds?) is a real tear-jerker.

And the illustrations! Henry opted, instead of photos, to decorate her text with lovely full color, full page renderings by Wesley Dennis. Whether head shots or action, they're a huge part of what makes the book so memorable. And the charming little pencil drawings scattered about each page's margins are entertainment of themselves. You can almost picture Dennis browsing through Henry's manuscript, sketching in trotters and foxes and buffalo as the urge struck him. At least that's how I see like to envision it.

It may not be encyclopedic, but it's still a marvelous window to the horse world - and to the past. I'm not sure that Suffolk Punches still dot the hills of Suffolk County, or that teams of Clydesdales are still commonly seen pulling heavy loads in the Midwest and on the plains of Canada, but some of the equine varieties featured are certainly still going strong, and they all have their own proponents. Now if only everyone would still treat their horses with such care, and select their breeding partners so meticulously! as Henry credits the Arab chieftains with doing.
I spent many an hour as a kid with Henry's books - not just this one. Curled up with Misty of Chincoteague, or Brighty of the Grand Canyon - racing with King of the Wind - it was good to find it still here on the shelf, and to know that my uncle likely enjoyed it just as much when he was young - it's enscribed to him as a gift, Christmas of 1959.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A good do-over day

At the (almost) end of the day, I'm glad I declared a do-over. Even dinner ended up being a semi-repeat. I tried making red-hot chicken bites last night, and H informed me they were okay, but soggy. Tonight I went a slightly different route, and seared them on the stove but let them finish in the oven. No turning required, evidently = crispy chicken. Who knew?

We tried the riding thing again tonight after supper, and although I bagged saddling, and just hopped on bareback with a halter, it was good.

video

A brief snippet

After I rode we fooled with the rest of the horses. I'll miss them this week so I wanted a good horse fix before I left. And I wanted some good shots to show the folks. Too, having read about Chase over on Less is More, maybe I wanted some time to just be grateful. Horses are so big and real, it's easy to forget just how fragile they are.

It's incredibly scary to watch a horse go down and get up hopping. The farm lost a yearling filly that way a couple of years ago. Out playing with her yearmates, one minute they were tearing around letting off steam, and the next she was rolling ears over teakettle. She came up with a broken leg. It's tragic and awful and scary to contemplate, and I'm so sorry to hear it's happened to someone else.

Today is a do-over

Yesterday did not happen. And you can quote me on that.

Should have known that back to back travel plans were a bad idea. But I really thought I'd manage to get everything I needed to get done accomplished. Not so.

And after a hectic day of not-quite done laundry, an abortive shopping excursion, and lots of other headaches, and a husband annoyed about goings on at work (they're interviewing for a newly open position in his department, and it's going in an interesting direction), I was ready to crawl back in bed and start the day over.

Instead, I waited for T to finish his "dinner with candidate" at 7 pm, because I really wanted to ride, and he'd promised to tape me. Well, the horses were pleased to see me, which was nice, but they were also bouncing around and twitchy. Amazing how you can always tell watching them when there's some sort of front moving in.

Sunny was quiet enough, though. But then there was a nice little debate over whether or not the pasture I wanted to ride in had been sprayed yet - really didn't want to ride on top of new Roundup - and it devolved from there. I was so not in a good riding frame of mind by the time we got done examining weeds and discussing alternatives.

So I unsaddled, Sunny got a cookie for being patient, and he got to go back out with his mates. T went asparagus hunting.

When I got home I still had to pack, and by that point I'd acquired T's headache. It all called for a good night's sleep, which I might have had, but Mabel decided to be affectionate....

At any rate, I'm doing yesterday over today, and so far it's going much better. Laundry is drying, I managed to get some housecleaning done, and I actually have a plan for supper. Now we'll see if the riding goes better. Will leave for MI in the a.m. one way or the other, though!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weekend Update

Well, it was a non-horse weekend all the way around, so if you want horsey-news, the horses are now in the north pasture. I haven't been out to see them yet, though.

I did go out Friday a.m. to ride, but the sprinkles that were decorating my windshield as I left the house turned into this

by the time I pulled in.

Torrential downpour - not pleasant for riding in. I watched the horses tear around the pasture trying to avoid getting wet for a while, but after 15 unproductive minutes of waiting, the rain slowed down and pretty much settled in. Guess I should have checked the radar picture on the Weather Channel first.

Got back to the house to find Mabel complaining - somehow it was my fault that she refused to come back in when I called her before I left.

After lunch it was time to pack. T did the horse checking (and reported in), because I took a flying trip to Illinois this weekend with a friend to visit her aunt. 20 hours in a car was lots of time to drool over all the pretty farms and fields we saw out the windows. Everything looks so spring-time fresh and softly green. And there were these - a whole farm of them, and the way the road hooked around it looked as if we were going to drive right into one. Pretty neat, really.

So tonight it's laundry, and tomorrow I'm packing for a week with the folks in MI. I'm hoping I can squeeze a ride in before I head out, though. And I arranged to ride/take a lesson with an old friend while I'm there, so I should have some horse news.

That's all for now - must go catch up with what all of you have been up to! :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Review: something other than dragons

I'm attempting to write this with a cat pacing across my keyboard, so any typos this time can be laid at Mabel's feet. Literally.

Anne McCaffrey has been called the grand dame of sci-fi fantasy. If she's not THE grand dame, she's quite arguably one of them. She's probably best known for her dragons (Pern) or perhaps for the Crystal Singer books. But in addition to dragons she also dabbled in romantic suspense and novels, and if you've never run across any, do yourself a favor and look them up. I'll admit, the first time I picked up today's book, many years ago, I was anticipating dragons. What I discovered instead was realistic fiction, probably slightly more realistic than my mother would have appreciated at the time, but I enjoyed it. Enough so that years later I tracked down a paperback copy of my very own.

The Lady by Anne McCaffrey
By the time she's thirteen Catriona Carradynes is aware that all is not exactly well with her mother. The Caradynes are horse folk, bred to the bone for generations back. Catriona's mother is not. For Catriona, there is nothing better than horses, whether riden, breathed in, sketched or written about, they're pretty much all she thinks about. They're also everything her rigidly religious mother doesn't want for her youngest daughter.

Well and good, you may be thinking. It's another story about a teenage girl who loves horses and her overbearing parents.

But it's more than that. McCaffrey winds together emotionally charged strands of story - she doesn't pull back from sensitive issues, covering religion, divorce, abuse, the nature of love and foregiveness and growing up. This is no fairy tale, and the happy ending - okay, there is a happy ending - is hard fought, but well earned.

It's Catriona's story, but it's also the story of the Carradyne family, and a look at an Ireland in transition. (And there are plenty of horses, too.)

The Lady is one of my favorite books. It's not short - 370 pages for the paperback edition - and don't expect an easy read if you tend to get wrapped up in the characters' lives. But it's worth the time you'll invest. At least I think so.

Mabel and I are signing off now. She's decided to sleep across my arm on my lap. My hand is falling asleep, but she's happy. Anyone know any sayings about disturbing sleeping cats?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thursday already?

Wow. Well, this week has flown by. Last night we opened a new field for the horses, and spent the next couple hours getting a wire added to another of the fences the deer took down, and a gate run across. Now hopefully the electricity will keep them out of trouble. The deer and the horses!

They were wild and crazy on Tuesday night. All sorts of racing around tails flagged. I had Sunny out, and my hands full with him, so no opportunities for pictures. I think at least four of the mares are in heat, which makes for a whole lot of hormones going on. Amyra was definitely in - T gave me a leg up on her and we walked a few loops. Lots of room for progress there, but at least I don't think we lost any ground over the winter.

Other than that, not much news.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Weekend update

Gorgeous weekend. Too nice not to be riding, but did I get any ear-time? No... But I did get the horses all vaccinated. The 4-way finally came in. I got the raincheck call this morning. A little late, as I'd already picked the vaccine up and given the shots - such timing.

Vaccinations were an unqualified success - I didn't expect much fussing really, since all of them are pretty good about shots. Even Thunder, whose reaction to anything that even resembled a needle used to be to skitter madly in the other direction, barely flicked an ear when I poked him.

It probably helped that it was a nice sunny day with no wind, but even so... J and I just walked out and caught them one at a time. Sunny persisted in thinking there was something pleasant going on that he was missing, even after he got his shot. Silly boy!

This week I have to get serious about riding time. Now that I'm officially done with work - I spent Saturday clearing my office - I'm hoping the weather will cooperate and Sunny and I can get some miles in. This morning would have been perfect, except I spent it at the dentist getting a filling. Bleh.... And right at the moment it's pouring.

So I guess I get to do laundry. Such fun!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

And T is now gloating...

Mine that Bird took it all going away. Summer Bird was 6th. Not too terrible :)

My pick...

I'm sitting here enjoying my orange juice (no mint julep - sorry Stephanie) and watching the pre-race coverage on NBC. Online they have a neat interactive handicap-helper that's useful for finding out a bit more about each of the horses.

They're on their way to be saddled, so it's time to make my pick... I like Summer Bird - lightly raced though he is, but he has a bad outside post position at #17. I like Advice, but like several of the others, he's not run much on dirt - still, at post position #4, he's better placed. Papa Clem has a decent record on dirt.... So many choices...

The favorites are Dunkirk, Pioneer of the Nile, and Freisan Fire, but I think I'm gonna go with Summer Bird.

Now let's see how I do. T has Mine that Bird, and H went with Advice. There you have it! Let's go racing :)

Not quite Friday Book Review: passive leadership

I was at a library conference in Denver. Surrounded by books & people talking about books & reading and literacy. For two days I'd climbed out of bed and headed eagerly out the door to talk to colleagues, sit attentively in presentations, ask (hopefully) intelligent questions, and just generally soak up the atmosphere. Evenings I'd curl up in bed, do a little channel-surfing and review the conference schedule to see what the next day would bring.

One of the best things about conferences is browsing the vendor booths - they almost all have free chocolate and drawings for nifty prizes, for one thing. But in addition to the goodies, in among all of the technology-related, educational furniture and library system displays are the book vendors.

Oh sure, lots of them are reference books - not exactly light reading, lol! But there are others, as well. And sure enough, I found a few I had to take home with me. Today's book is one of them.

Horses Never Lie by Mark Rashid
This isn't a horse training book. You might call it a philosophical book with horses..., but that isn't exactly right either. What it is is more a series of semi-conversational stories illustrating Rashid's views on horse training, behavior, herd dynamics and what not, and how he came to hold them.

It's interesting. It reads well, and it's thought-provoking. It's also not preachy; not over-bearing or condescending. He doesn't push specific tools, training methods or products as a one-stop solution for any and all problems.

What Rashid does focus on is attitude and communication and thinking about what you're doing and the relationship you're creating with your horse - that it's important to listen, and to feel, and to think about the WHY of the response.

It's intriguing. He doesn't make it sound easy and effortless. He isn't saying your horse will be your friend. But the idea that it's possible to build a partnership based on trust on both sides? It's appealing. And certainly, it seems to work for Rashid.
When I picked the book up to read it again before I started writing this review I popped over and checked out his website. Not a carrot-stick in sight - grin. I've never been to one of Rashid's clinics - I'd be curious to hear from anyone who has.

If nothing else, the man has a way with a story, and I've enjoyed my second trip through Horses never lie.

Derby Day - Are you watching?

I'm a racing fan... Well, maybe I'm Easter-Catholic racing fan. I like watching the Derby, but along with most of America, horse racing doesn't hit my radar most of the rest of the year unless FHOTD has a spot on OTTB rescue.

My uncle worked on the race track exercising horses and grooming for a while after high school/during college. My mom had a OTTB when I was little that had bowed a tendon on the track. That's about as close to the racing industry as we get. But for one Saturday in May, we, along with several hundred thousand other Americans, tune in and join the magic. (This year even Barbie is going.)

My family has a Derby day tradition - sometime before post, phones start ringing: "What horse did you pick?" "I'm taking the gray one - no, the other gray one." Someone almost always calls the gray one, regardless of the odds.

There's nothing riding on the outcome except bragging rights. The winner gets to do a bit of gloating - and usually does.

So I'll be tuned in to the television this afternoon, fingers crossed that this year's Triple Crown gets off to a good start, tragedy-free.

With Iwant Revenge scratched this morning due to an ankle injury, Dunkirk looks good, but the distance may be a factor. There are some other strong contenders in there, as well, Friesan Fire and Pioneer of the Nile, for two. What's Derby hype, and what's true? I guess we'll all find out together a few hours from now.

So, are you a Derby race fan? Who's your pick to take the roses home?

As for me, I'm off to do my Derby day research!

Happy horses!

Waiting on the grain

Heading out to pasture

"That's my bite!"