Sunday, September 12, 2004

Decisions, Decisions!

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Sunday, September 12th, Part One:
Seems I'm still catching up on this blog with old news. In brief: after determining that Cheerios was healthy, it was time to determine whether or not to keep him. I've been toying with selling him for a couple years now. Obviously I must not want to sell him very badly, because he's still here. :wink: About a month ago, I went on a trail ride with Nora, the lovely girl who has been leasing him for the past year or so. She and Cheerios get on quite well, being that they are both redheads LOL. I'm happy with her as a leaser (lessee?) because she's very considerate of Cheerios as well as of me. She's even taken over his farrier appointments, which for the unemployed (me) is a great help. So we went on this ride, great ride, feeling good, and when we got back, I decided it was time to try riding him again. I'm sure I posted last year when I rode him around... yes, the day Nora first came out to test-drive him. That was at the trot.

Well, this time, I got up to a canter. Without fear. TA-DAAAA!!! Yay, me. Still having stopping problems. He stopped by almost slamming his head into the barn. We have a LOT to work out. His trot, however, is still awful. I tried sitting it. Hey, I can sit Wildflower's fast trot, albeit uncomfortably (I'd rather post that speed), so I figured by now, thanks to all the Fluidity work I've been doing, I'd be able to handle his trot.


Riding his trot is like riding a jackhammer with a stutter. An even trot is 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2. His trot is 1-2-1-2-1..2-1-1-1..2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1--1--2-1-2-1-2-1-2. Very jarring. It would help if he could trot an even rhythm, then it would just be about his up and down bounciness. But he has both going at once. Bounciness plus lack of rhythm (must be a white boy inside LOL). So it's darn near impossible to ride.

My observation at this point is that:
1. He was a green four-year-old when I bought him (and I was neon green as well)
2. He'd been taught basic commands (this means walk, trot, canter, halt, back up, and stand still) but just enough so that he'd be saleable (like using the Berlitz method to learn a language before your trip overseas)
3. Then he'd been trained to chase cows (roping horse)
4. He'd never been schooled in how to carry/balance a rider for long periods of time

Part of that contributed to my fall waaaaaay back in 2001; and the fact that nobody's known enough to be able to teach him how to carry himself with a rider for longer than two minutes is the other part. I still don't think I know how to teach that, but I have an idea that flatwork, aka the Circling Game, might help.

After that ride, I decided that although I was now relieved to know I could ride him without fear (at least in the safety of the arena), I no longer wanted him because he wasn't fun to ride (aka smooth, even, relaxing). So I'd made up my mind I was OK with selling him. At least, I was using that to justify selling him, which I was being pressured to do by my parents. I've been unemployed for almost 28 months now with only brief respites (six weeks at my old job last year and three weeks on a work-for-hire project last month) and up until June, I had my housemate's contributions along with whatever freelance I pulled plus my parents' contributions allowing me to survive. Without the housemate, and with limited freelance, it's been up to my parents to help, since Unemployment Compensation ran out years ago. They aren't interested in supporting two horses, especially when I'm not even using one. They'll allow me to keep the one. So it's been very upsetting to me. I don't want to sell because I truly believe that with enough PNH under my belt, I'll be able to help him finally and build a great relationship and have TWO amazing horses to ride. Then I can learn roping and cutting and start living my dream.

So I was all set to sell, resigned to it. Even had a potential buyer lined up, who'd actually contacted me about it. My ex-housemate's sister (XHS) who is also my hairdresser. We hadn't even negotiated prices yet. I figured it was only fair to give Nora the opportunity to buy him. When I explained the situation to her and the possibility of XHS buying him and continuing to allow Nora to lease him, Nora countered with the offer to take him on as a full lease. Well, gee, if the two biggest repeating costs are being handled by the leaser, then I have no reason to sell except if I want or need some fast cash. The only worry ahead is shots in the spring, and by then, who knows where I'll be?

Cheerios has been given a reprieve.

Sunday, September 12th, Part Two:
Now We're Getting Somewhere...

With Wildflower, there have been significant improvements made. Not without a few bumps in the road, however. Since deciding to amp up the progress in Level Two in preparation for the Bruce Logan clinic in October (did I mention I'd signed us up?), we've had an interesting, frustrating, rewarding month.

Originally, the clinic was advertised as a standard Level One & Two clinic format, meaning he'd be there for four days, and days one and two would be a Level One clinic, days three and four would be a Level Two clinic. By "standard", I mean that anyone studying that particular level is welcome regardless of how long they've been at it or how much they know. Clinic formats are as follows:
• "Intro to Level #" means it's appropriate for the very beginners in that level who have been at it for a couple weeks (say you just passed Level One and are just beginning to use the 22-foot line in Level Two) or for people who've never even tried playing the games (Intro to Level One), have nary a clue, and might have just brought their horse blindly in and bought the equipment a half hour before the start of the clinic.

• "Level #" means it's appropriate for those who have been playing with that Level for awhile and it's to help fill in the holes in your education and answer questions.

• "Adv Level #/Intro Level #" means that you're near to assessing out of the Advanced Level and/or just started the next level up.

Uh, more later, I just got a life-altering phone call... a good one, no worries... more later...

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Horsey Musings

Friday, September 3rd:

In case anyone is looking for a goofball fly mask:

Horse Lessons
Don't know whom to credit for this, but it's cute...
All I Need to Know in Life ~ I Learned From My Horse
  1. When in doubt, run far, far away.
  2. You can never have too many treats.
  3. Passing gas in public is nothing to be ashamed of.
  4. New shoes are an absolute necessity every 6 weeks.
  5. Ignore cues. They're just a prompt to do more work.
  6. Everyone loves a good, wet, slobbery kiss.
  7. Never run when you can jog. Never jog when you can walk. And never walk when you can stand still.
  8. Heaven is eating for at least 15 hours a day... and then sleeping the rest.
  9. Eat plenty of roughage.
  10. Great legs and a nice rear will get you anywhere. Big, brown eyes help too. Beautiful mane and tail will get you everywhere.
  11. When you want your way, stomp hard on the nearest foot.
  12. In times of crisis, take a poop.
  13. Act dumb when faced with a task you don't want to do.
  14. Follow the herd. That way, you can't be singled out to take the blame.
  15. A swift kick in the butt will get anyone's attention.
  16. Love those who love you back, especially if they have something good to eat.

Old News

Really, really old news.

Friday, September 3rd:

So. It seems I left out a few important items. So I'll try to catch y'all up. And by golly, the text better look the way I want it to!

March 09, 2004
I went out to the barn last Saturday to visit my long-lost horses and had a blast playing with Wildflower in the round pen like I was another horse. At feeding time, everyone came in, and I went to see Cheerios in his stall. I went to scratch under his chin and he pulled away. I found out why. I felt bare skin and a bump. The bump was bloody and gross. I thought maybe it was a bite from another horse, he is second in command and they battle all the time out in the pasture. Erin and Kathleen (barn managers) got a spotlight so we could look... he has something growing there and it must itch cuz all the fur's rubbed off. It's a little smaller than a grape. They weren't sure what it was. With that lump on his shoulder that he's had since I bought him, I got worried and figured it's vital that he be checked out. I hope it's nothing, but I had the vet look at it. She was coming out Tuesday anyway for another horse, so I split the farm call (yay).

Well, Dr. Laura Schmidt looked him over. She wasn't sure what the thing under his chin is either. Might be something got up in there and it got infected; might be a benign sarcoid tumor. She said to use hot packs once a day for 10-15 minutes for 10 days and see how it looks at vaccine time (the 20th). So I have that lovely duty every day, drive 20 minutes out, 20 back, 20 to get the hot water and the Epsom salts and sit there holding the sponge on his boo-boo. (Cheerios is not the type to stand still patiently.)

She looked at the lump on his shoulder. It's been worrying me since I got him but O'Desky, Speiss AND the vet I used for the pre-purchase exam whose name I have long-since forgotten have looked at it and blew it off as an old scar or nothing to worry about unless it grew. I've always had my doubts. Schmidt opted to aspirate it to see if she could obtain any cells to send to pathology to test and rule out things. She wasn't expecting anything, wasn't even sure she'd be able to get any cells at all.

Surprise, surprise. She shaved a patch, sterilized it, and stuck the needle in and all our eyes grew wide when this stream of thick yellow goop came pouring out. She got the syringe on it and filled up the whole thing with yellow cloudy fluid. She handed that off to her assistant and squeezed the lump for a good few minutes as the stuff just poured out of him and slid down his side. I almost lost my lunch and I have a pretty adaptable stomach. Blech. Has it been this way for three years?!? I should have followed my first instinct and had it biopsied right away, I think.

Cheerios handled it all pretty well, though, but he got a little antsy as she squeezed. The lump is still there, draining it hasn't diminished it much. The vet thinks it's probably somewhat painful and may have contributed to his tendency to buck halfway into trail rides because the saddle rubs up against it and doesn't let the saddle sit completely square, which would put pressure points on his back; or it might be painful in his shoulder when he moves. She reassured me that it could be something we just need to lance and drain and he'll be fine after that, or it could be something more, like a sarcoid tumor as mentioned previously, which is kind of like a cyst (not cancerous) but would require dragging him up to Michigan or something to have it removed because that would be more involved than what can be done in the field. Non-committal on a diagnosis until the bloodwork came back.

Schmidt got the bloodwork back today and it's inconclusive. Because no bacteria was present in the fluid, it's not an infection response. The cells in the fluid also do not conform to the typical cyst. So she is still not committing to a diagnosis, but it's looking like a tumor of some type. She will be out next Friday to do another biopsy around the outer edge this time rather than in the middle. He might need to have a little bit of tissue removed.

Since I began daily Florence Nightengale rounds, the thing under his chin is looking better each day, that's a plus. He's eating and otherwise seems fine; I think he just wants attention! LOL! You know horses. "I'm feeling lonely... I think I'll come up lame today with no diagnosable explanation... until turn out, of course, then I'll kick, buck, and run without limping." Or, "Nobody's feeding me cookies... I think I'll scratch my chin, get a splinter, and grow something on me to worry my owner."

Wouldn't put it past 'em! ;-D

I guess it's just my turn to worry, fret, and play nurse. Having escaped the first three years without doing so, I guess I've been pretty lucky. It's probably nothing (on both accounts) but I'll feel better knowing officially.

March 31, 2004
Update on Cheerios' condition—based on an inconclusive needle biopsy (no bacteria present, not consistent with typical cystotic fluid), and a subsequent tissue biopsy on him. More gross gunk, a few "particles" that were added to the sample, three stitches and three staples later, and the results were:

"connective tissue, some fat, and mild lymphocytic steatitis"

Which all adds up to nothing. No cancer, thank god. Final diagnosis: he suffered an injury to the shoulder at some point (yeah, before I bought him) and when it healed, for some unknown reason the fluid had nowhere to go so it just collected. Most of it drained out from the biopsies so he's looking better. The good news is, he has a clean bill of health. The chin thing cleared up on its own.

Not much news to tell! The second biopsy produced "connective tissue, some fat, and mild lymphocytic steatitis" (lymphocytic = white blood cells, steatitis = inflammation). This was late on a Friday. The vet said the good news is it doesn't appear to be anything cancerous or fatal; however, she still isn't sure what to do about it and has to talk to the pathologist further about the results. The next day, they got their shots and he got his staples removed and is healing fine and the lump is smaller (well duh, half of it drained down his side). That was March 20th. I called last Friday to see what she'd found and she's still waiting for the pathologist.

So I guess he's not in any danger of dying from it!

The weather here is grey and rainy all week. I'm dying for a nice sunny warm day so I can go play with horses. Jonesing now.

April 16, 2004

Well, I had a great day with Wildflower yesterday, even got to ride a little (in the round pen, not the arena or woods). The surprise of the day was when I tried doing mounted liberty work (that means I am riding her but I'm not using the reins to guide her, just my body language) and got her to easily sidepass, turn, and change gaits WITHOUT EVEN TOUCHING the reins (they were looped around the horn), it was like Dances with Horses or something!

May 1, 2004
OK, is it just me, or does the idea that someone is SELLING their L1 submission video strike anyone else as wrong?

There was a link at the top of my blog in the ad banner advertising "Parelli level 1 'pass': You can see a successful level one submission. Now available on video."

Of course, curiosity got the better of me and I visited. It just seems... WRONG.

But she's in Australia, so apparently the American copyright laws specifically prohibiting (under penalty of prosecution) the teaching of PNH material (is this video considered "teaching"?) by anyone who is not an official PNH Endorsed Instructor doesn't apply to this Wrangler Jayne person. I'm confused; what is this person's affiliation with Parelli? I don't see anything on either the Parelli site or her own listing her as an Endorsed Instructor, yet her program seems frighteningly similar to PNH and she mentions Parelli in the blurb. Is this really OK or is it not? Is it just a fine line between legitimate and not? Is on the up-and-up?

May 27, 2004

Had a wonderful day with Wildflower yesterday—after the last session, I was doubtful bc she was distracted the entire time I was there and it was awful! Whinny city. I gave up thinking I had any savvy and figured all my Level One training was bs. But yesterday was different, better, and we went on a short trail ride. Fun. Felt good. VERY very sore all over today.

June 3, 2004
I think I need a clinic. Wildflower is getting bored (and so am I) and she's starting to rewrite the games lately. Eeesh. I hate that. Plateaus. You get everything going well, then it falls apart again because you think, oh, now that she does that so nicely, I can back off and I don't have to Phase 4 her anymore. So she "plays you for a sucker" ;-) and forces you to and you feel bad about it. At least, I do. :-(

A friend of mine attended a Level 2/3 Camp across the woods from me. It would have been perfect for me, because I wouldn't need to trailer. There was just one thing stopping me from going. The FF. Because it was HER clinic, at HER barn, meaning she'd be in charge of making everyone's lives miserable (if she hates you or has no use for you). I wouldn't dare even audit. In fact I was really honestly out of town that weekend. My friend had a pretty good time regardless, except she found a couple of things seemed unsafe. Rather, there was some animosity growing due to a conflict of opinions. Apparently, my friend's saddle was a tad loose, so she bent over while mounted to tighten the girth and got called on it as being unsafe, must dismount first. The fact that my friend got called on it in front of the entire class and auditor group was mortifying to her. I know part of that was amplified because of the smug disgusted looks that were likely emanating toward her from the FF.

At the end of the clinic, they all posed for a group photo, and half the class plus the instructor stood on their saddles. My friend did not. The fact that they did that unsettled her, and she questioned the safety of that maneuver (privately). My response was:

Well, as you can see from your "unsafe" thing vs. the Instructor's "unsafe" thing, nobody's perfect, and everyone seems to do whatever is within their comfort zone, occasionally forgetting to think first. True, there are risk factors involved in staying mounted while tightening your girth, but we've all done it. Me included. Even after passing L1. But we also know, it depends on the horse. You just gotta know what's under you. I can get away with that on Wildflower because I know her temperament. I know she's very UNlikely to react badly. Most often, I dismount first but I've done it before. I certainly wouldn't assume the same on someone else's horse, even if they said it'd be ok they do it all the time. Yeah, maybe it was best to just nod and say to the Instructor "You're right, thank you" or apologize or something and keep your feelings about it to yourself. ;-) But I hardly doubt that the Instructor holds a grudge. Who all stood on their saddles? I know we're supposed to be able to stand on our horses by L3, right? OK, so maybe that was ok, if the ones doing that were all in L3... not L2... but I'm betting some of them aren't in L3 yet, am I right? (—FF being one of them)

But it's the same thing—it's as safe as you think your horse is. I personally wouldn't have done that. Even if I could have, out of respect for the other people around me. Some of those horses might have freaked. Think about it. Predator alert! One time when I was brushing Wildflower in the barn, we were right below the hay loft by the ladder. Erin had just gone UP the ladder to the loft. Wildflower didn't even pay attention. But when Erin started coming DOWN the ladder, Wildflower freaked badly (mountain lion! mountain lion! mountain lion!). I learned something that day. Probably no L2/L3 horse would think much of that, but there may have been that ONE horse who would have freaked seeing a human standing up on a horse next to them.

I think that's enough for the moment.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Eating the Elephant... bite at a time.

Thursday, August 5th:

Figured out where the problems were with Wildflower. First, I was too agressive with her, starting around Phase 2 or 3 instead of Phase 1 and not allowing her a fair chance to respond. So I softened up this time.

Well, I softened up a little too much. I was giving her good Phase 1 and 2... but not being consistent with going to Phase 4 when necessary. Not only was I hesitating to go to Phase 4, but I was being so inconsistent. What I mean is, if I was firm (yet kind) about going to Phase 4 while we were working on that particular Game, say the Driving Game on the FQ for example, I was wimping out when I asked for a FQ turn when it wasn't the Game.

Say she was facing me, and now I wanted to move her over to the fence so we could do Sideways. First I would need to reposition her so she was facing 90 degrees away from me, facing the fence. Then I could proceed with Zone 1-Zone 4 down the fence for the Sideways Game. Well, since she'd done a great job with responding to the Driving Game earlier at Phase 1 finally, I eased up when I asked her to move her FQ away from me toward the fence. So I'm going Phase 1... Phase 1... ahem... Phase 1... nothing. I kept up Phase 1 then Phase 2 until finally, out of sheer annoyance with me, she'd move reluctantly.

My problem was losing sight of the fact that even when we aren't specifically isolating that Game, I still need to be consistent with my Phases EVERY TIME I ask her for a response using a Game's technique other than the Game we were currently playing. What I should have done was ask her to move her FQ away from me toward the fence with Phase 1... and if she didn't move soon enough, go Phase 2, 3, 4 in quick succession until she DID respond, being mindful to pull back on the Phase when she mentally began the shift and not being afraid to go to Phase 4 if she ignored me.

So this session was more helpful to me than her, I learned more than she did.

Friday, August 6th:
Having studied the L1 video over and over and studying the first L2 video over and over then reading the Stage 1 booklet very very carefully and taking copious notes (which I brought to the barn with me), and having compared this information to the previous night's session, I set new goals for myself, one being to go back to L1 Games and tighten up everything that was wrong. Make sure both of us are clear on what each Phase feels like, get the responses to happen at Phase 1 or 2, and make sure I am clear on my positioning. Break each Game down again, step by step, and make sure each step is where it is supposed to be. Clean it up. Stop being lazy. Now that I'd studied my lessons, I knew what needed fixed, I recognized my lazy spots, and I set out to fix them.

Part of what I'd done the previous night touched on this, which is why I was in too-soft Phase 1 land. However, we did have some success in re-teaching her the Games. I was very conscientious not to push her, but to stop when I got the appropriate response from a Phase 1 or 2, regardless of how far the response went. If I got a nice mental response and turn in the right direction off of a nice Phase 1-2, I stopped there.

Some of the Games were beautiful. The Yo-Yo Game has really improved, and that's because I spent a couple sessions with her focusing on it intently (this was before my study sessions began). I knew Yo-Yo was the precursor to Bring Back, and both are precursors to Changing Directions during Circling, and since that was my next mission, to teach the change of direction and I was having trouble, I went back each step until I isolated the problem. It was our Bring Back. It was sloppy (on my part ) and hesitant (on hers). So we isolated that, and discovered the Yo-Yo was the source. It was sloppy (on my part) and hesitant (on hers) (see the pattern?)

She would yo-yo backwards fine, albeit dragging her feet, but wouldn't stop until she ran out of rope despite my wanting her to stop halfway. Then she wouldn't come in. And when she finally did, it'd be all the way in, right smack into my personal space, despite my wanting her to stop three feet away. Isolation time. Be more obvious in my body language. Use all the Phases if necessary. After a little while, she began to understand that when I pivot my feet 90 degrees from her position facing me, spreadeagle my legs, stand so that I'm leaning towards her, point my finger, grimace (mother in law face) and wiggle my finger, it means back up. When I relax my face and posture, and return to my original position facing her and stop leaning in, that means stop right there and wait. When I curl up a little, smile, and motion to her to come in (open hands face up rolling toward me waist high or a wiggled "c'mere" finger), start approaching me and stop when I change back to relaxed mode.

Now, it's improved in a few short days to where we've progressed from really lousy beginning Level One Yo-Yo to my being able to ask her to back up over a pole, bring one front foot forward over the pole and stop, with the front legs straddling the pole.... then ask for the other front foot to come over and stop... then one hind foot... now back up hind foot and one front... and so on. I'm controlling individual feet. In just a few days, by isolating the Game step-by-step.

That's what we did Thursday, with the other six games.

Friday's goal was to find the balance between too soft and too hard. It began to gel. There was still some variation over the line; sometimes I got a little too hard and sometimes too soft, but the responses were becoming more like the end of L1 beginning L2 where they should have been last August after we passed. Again, I made sure to stop when I got a good response.

Unfortunately, I had to teach her not to run off the moment I remove the halter. She braced the moment she felt me untie it. I made her wait... tried to slide it off slowly but she bolted off. I considered waving it away, then thought, no, that'll teach her to do that. So I walked over to her, disengaged her, and put the halter back on. She wasn't happy about that. I lead her back to the gate. Told her all she has to do is wait for me to tell her when to go... and we wouldn't have to do this again. She waited... as best as she could, and snorted off when I told her to go. Well, it was progress.

Saturday, I got trapped in my bedroom when the doorknob broke, and almost missed Bullriding at the fair. After trying to MacGuyver the door for 45 panicky minutes, cursing the fact that I procrastinated about installing a phone in the room, cursing the fact that my cell phone and keys with garage door opener were on the kitchen table downstairs, cursing the fact that I'd locked the front storm door to keep out burglars (and the key was on the table), fearing broken bones should I try crawling out the window onto the garage roof and jumping to the driveway pavement below, and being very very pissed off after all the hard work I'd done restoring the room and painting the door, I finally resorted to kicking a big hole through the damned thing so I could get out. When I returned from the fair, I removed the doorknob (the rod between the two knobs that turns the latch had worked its way out of the inner knob), and used duct tape and a scrap of banner vinyl I'd scammed from my former employer last fall during a short-term project and covered the hole to prevent uninvited midnight cat visits. The hole is still there. One of these days, I'll get around to buying a new door and knob set.

The bullriding was great; a few big injuries, but they all walked away (stiffly). The highlight of the evening was when the Roman Rider performed. This 17-year-old girl, Dusty Lynn (wish I could remember the name of the trick riding group she rode with), rode two horses at once, bareback, barefoot, one foot on each horse, around the bullriding arena at a fast canter. She changed foot positions, switching between horses; she did the splits sideways across their backs; someone set up six poles in the center, and she rode between them serpentine style, then rode with one horse on either side of the poles and the line of poles passing beneath her crotch (so she was straddling them, had about three or four feet of air between the horses). Then, she did it again, but this time they were lit on fire! So she straddled flames! Then, as if that wasn't enough, a guy ran in and set up a long piece of PVC tube vertically from the corral fence to a support. I thought, "no way... she's not going to JUMP that way, is she?"

By golly, SHE DID! Clean as a whistle, cleared a two-foot jump that way. I'm still looking for my jaw. I figure, she'd qualify to be Parelli Level 8 or something (I just looked it up, and Levels 7, 8 & 9 are True Unity, which involves more than one horse). That alone was worth the price of admission. Even my dad was impressed.

Sunday, August 8th:
Scary day at the barn. I set out to improve even more and was hoping to get in some riding time. Well, that all went to Helena Handbasket. First I got waylaid by Nora (Cheerios' leaser), some young girl who had on a Parelli shirt and is studying Level One (finally, like-minded people), Beth, and others. Had to chat with the gang, ya know.

Just as I got up to collect my horse and begin, something awful happened.

I rounded the corner into the barn. Someone wondered aloud where Erin (barn manager) was; another said they were out on a trail ride... "and here they come now, I can hear hooves". Yeah. Then suddenly we all could hear hooves. Loud, thundering, full-on galloping hooves. Heading for the barn. Shouts and screams. I dropped my stuff on the ground and shot back out the door as Dublin, Erin's big half-draft mare, came barrelling down the lane and round to the front of the barn, with a saddle dangling under her belly.

Not a good sign.

At the same time, there were screams and shouts and a loud whomping sound. Chaos and commotion. Six had been on the ride and four came back mounted, and two riderless horses charged to the barn (one being Dublin, the other, Erin's other mare, Roxy). I ran out in front of Dublin to slow her down and she did but went round to the other side of the barn. Someone took charge of catching her. Another grabbed Roxy. That's when I saw, over top of the gravel mounds, the sight of Erin, face down in the grass beside the lane, and realized she'd fallen off.

I think I said "Oh My God!!!" and that alerted someone else in the barn, I think I might have said something like Erin's fallen or something, and a couple of us rushed over to her to see if she was ok. She wasn't. She wasn't moving, she was crying, she was moaning in pain and I said "DON'T MOVE!!! Just lie still!" and the rest of the riders came up, except one was missing. One lady turned to go find her daughter, who had been riding Dublin. Erin had been on Roxy.

Apparently, they'd had a great ride, were in good spirits, feeling a little keyed up, and the girl riding Dublin (Rachael) decided to canter down the lane along with two other young girls. Rachael noticed her saddle slip to the right a little, and tried to shift it to the left to counter balance it. Didn't work. It had loosened up or something had gave way. The saddle started to go, Rachael along with it. Rachael was thrown, at a canter, and landed on her back. Dublin realized there was a monster attached to her belly (the saddle), and panicked. Roxy heard her coming up behind her; Erin turned to say "slow down a little on the lane" and Dublin rushed Roxy, who spooked, and whirled, and launched into a panicked canter herself. Erin, already off balance from turning to look back, went flying when her attempts to pull back and stop Roxy failed. From what she said, she fell and rolled, landed on top of her left arm. Now, it hurt terribly to breathe.

She protested about us calling 911 because she isn't insured. But all of us were worried, about broken ribs puncturing lungs, internal bleeding, concussions. She took a long time to get up after reassuring us that the only thing that really hurt was her side. Her friends finally convinced her to go to the hospital. She went well past her golden hour, though.

Karen (another boarder) was there, and together with Nora, we organized the feeding ordeal. We grained all 38 horses, provided supplements to the appropriate ones, brought them in to eat, spread hay for the geldings who would be in the mud lot at night, hay for the mares confined to the arena due to sand colic, turned them out, and closed up shop while Erin attended her injuries. Rachael got off easy with a sore back.

By the time we finished, it was 8:00. I escorted Wildflower to the round pen anyway, and made good use of the hour of daylight remaining. For all the awfulness of the day, our session was wonderful. I upped the ante and requested L2 solid Phase 1 responses and was very consistent every time I asked for something. Politely persistent in the proper position. We only got up to the Circling Game because I chose to teach new parts of Circling.

First, though, I worked on winning the Friendly game. Stay relaxed, and work up to flogging the ground really hard, see how much she can take before her head goes up, back up one step and back off a little on the pressure until her head comes down, keep it up until she drops her head and relaxes. Then quit. Wait a bit. Begin again. I got some results. Onto Porcupine... well, it still takes a lot of Phase 3 & 4 to get her response. So I pushed that a bit more than usual. Got really firm with the Phase 4, I absolutely insist that you respond when I ask. When I began getting quick responses at Phase 2, I stopped that Game.

Onto Driving. Same thing. Asked politely, and went to Phase 4 if necessary. One big problem: a new tendency for her to move forward, even when I am up by her head driving the FQ. I changed one thing from the way I'd been doing it, and that might have confused her. What I used to do is place the non-driving hand on her withers and drive with the other hand. That got a good pivot. I took the wither-hand away bc that's not the way it's done in the videos, and I need to be able to use that hand at her girth line for individual feet later on, so I've been placing it there for Porcupine, and not using my non-driving hand at all unless I'm Driving with the stick held horizontally up by her face. If I'm Driving with the stick rolling toward her, that other hand is hovering either by her neck or her girth.

So I switched it up. I held the rope in that hand and backed her one step, then drove. Back, then drive. Back then drive. Well well, there's the pivot I've been looking for. When I got the pivot and a step or two, I stopped. Her HQ pivot was sucking too. She's supposed to disengage off of a look, in a 361-degree circle. Same problem. Swing around a few times, then move away from me. Or she'd move a step or two, stop... step or two, stop... so I had to correct that. More use of rope to indirect rein her while driving and insist she continue until I rubbed. It improved, so I stopped.

Yo-yo: more work on over the pole. That game's good.

Circling: worked on my Send, her Allow (not stopping or changing gaits until I asked), and the Bring Back (which is beautiful). Worked on getting her to trot into me on the Bring Back. Majorly improved the Send. Then, I taught her Change Directions. She did pretty well on that, so I didn't push it, left it with a good try on both sides. Next I taught her Change Gaits. Trot to walk first. One side was good very fast, the other took a while. She has the tendency of wanting to turn into me when I request the slow-down. Fixed that, enough to where I could move on to the Trot-Walk-Trot change. Quite good at picking up speed off of very little suggestion. Slow-down got a little better. Once she did a nice execution on both sides, when I got what I wanted, I stopped. That was it.

I let her sit for a bit, then gave her back and belly a good scratching. I lead her to the back pasture, and told her to remember the other day, that she needs to wait for me to tell her OK go. She started bracing as I untied. I had the rope around her neck for support. She pulled as if to leave. I pulled her back and said "waiiittt...". She sighed. Harrumphed is more like it. I took the halter off painfully slowly. She jigged slightly. I held fast to the rope. Told her, wait for the signal or we'll have to do this again. Slowly lifted the rope over her head. As I got to her ears, she leaned hard to bolt and I pulled her back. Once she harrumphed again and relaxed slightly, I took the rope off... and she waited, braced. I waited a brief moment, then turned away from her, took a step and said OK, GO! And off she went. At a trot. Not a gallop.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

What, No Title?

What, No Title?
There is something very, very wrong with my blog now. They've changed something in the coding, and now my fonts are the wrong size, the leading is wrong, eccch, and the Title, which I have enabled, doesn't seem to want to come up. (I think I'm changing the body font to this one, Lucida Grande, because it seems to be easier to read.)

I am clueless (or rather, not in the mood to phuck with it) about how to fix it.

So, bear with. Eventually, I will have my formatting back to normal.



I can't say I've been too busy to post, just too lazy. Hey, it's summer! What do you expect? Ohio weather alternates between blisteringly hot and humid versus autumn-like coolness, and the dishrag days tend to add to the laziness factor.

It occurred to me that it's been a year (actually, a year and two days) since Wildflower & I achieved our Official Level One status... and we are only scratching the surface of Level Two! Shame on us. Shame on me, rather. I'm the one who has to crack the bindings on the pocket guides and study the material before teaching it to her. All the horse has to do is put up with my fumbling and try to respond.

OK... momentary digressions from the subject: I hereby give up trying to use the appropriate punctuation marks for contractions (an apostrophe, or ’ which naturally posts as a question mark, not the curlicued superscript comma it's supposed to be) rather than succumb to the default which appears when you hit the " key (quote marks key) on the keyboard. Does it really matter if it's—er, it’s—a proper apostrophe, or the default... which is the designation for the measurement of a foot? That's right. As in, five feet eight inches tall, or = 5' 8" tall. It's just such a bitch to have to hit Shift Option footmark for every single contraction! I give up. Foots it is.

I must continue to digress. I'm bored with the look of this site and have discovered a new wave of blog templates that include gorgeous graphics, even animation, more like websites than just an online diary. Being a designer myself, however, I'm dissatisfied with the current offerings in weblog templates. Oh, there are some nice ones out there, but they aren't "me". No. I want something more personalized. My colors. My design. My graphics. Found out it's not as easy as it looks... I might actually have to learn some code to do it. When I find one, you'll be the first ones to know.

Back to horse chatter... mostly, I focused on trail riding this spring. A little bit. Not as much as I would have thought. But that was partly due to home issues messing up my life. Without going too far into it, let's just say that you can know someone for 10 years, think you "know" them, then find out you don't really know them at all—and now they are a complete stranger. It gets scary when that stranger happens to be living under the same roof. My stable, harmless, unflappable, ex-bf-turned-platonic-housemate-for-financial-reasons-only completely changed his spots one night, and showed me a side I think I probably knew subconsciously was always there, lurking beneath the surface... but never believed it.

Long painful story short, he overreacted to something I said, claimed I'd insulted him (I didn't, still not sure how he wove an insult out of an innocent offhand comment), blew up while riding home from the grocery store with me, banged repeatedly on my dashboard, ignored my requests to stop destroying my car, scared the bejeezus out of me, and hit me, punched me hard in the arm, when I swatted at him to distract his destruction. Told me "don't ever hit me bitch because I will hit back!" Then refused to leave the car (following repeated demands to do so from me) once we turned onto my road and demanded I take him home. I said "Sorry, I'm not going home, you can get out and walk from here if you don't want to go where I'm going," and turned around and headed for the highway.

At the top of the overpass as I was entering the turn lane for the interstate, he reached over and pulled the keys out of the ignition. Played keepaway with them. I got them back by placing his arm between my teeth and growling as the warning to drop them or I'll bite. (I meant it, too. I would have gone straight to the bone if that's what it had taken.) Threatened to do it again if I got on the highway. I told him "You will not touch me OR my car when I am driving ever again" and proceeded to enter the highway. When he calmly and smugly informed me that now I was kidnapping him and I'd be in big trouble if I didn't take him home right now, I drove back to my house because I didn't really know if he was bluffing or if he really had a case and that was the last thing I'd need.

I told him he no longer lived at my house, to get out tonight and pick up your stuff later. He unloaded the groceries in silence, then went up to his room and went to bed. That's right! What part of "get out tonight" did he miss?

The next day, he played hooky from work (his excuse:
I was the crazy one, and he was worried about what I might do to his stuff while he was gone!), slept in half the day, then informed me that his hitting me was in self defense, and that I deserved it.

I'm no psychologist (but my sister is), but I know the mindset of an abuser when I see it. Why I didn't see it nine years earlier, I'll never know. Probably because he is not the obvious kind, he is the more subtle kind that plays it so close to the line that he barely crosses it... leaving tons of room for doubt. Are those comments deliberate snide insults designed to belittle me, or is he just not very sensitive and doesn't realize some of his "jokes" aren't funny? He never gets mad during arguments... he's only blown up a handful of times in ten years. Yet, I've been branded a "raving bitch" because when I get frustrated I tend to express my opinions and frustrations loudly at the top of my well-trained singer's voice instead of quietly.

When he said "you're just lucky it was me in the car with you and not my dad, because he wouldn't have stopped with one punch!" I realized how bad it was. It clicked. I asked if his dad beat them up. He said pretty much, yeah, a lot. So here he was, the victim of an abusive father, and in ten years of what I'd thought was friendship, following a good solid year or so of being a very intimate couple, he had never told me this. Oh, I knew his dad was a Grade A asshole, mean, nasty, belittling, and that nobody liked him at all, but I thought it was all bark and no bite.

I was so wrong.

Unfortunately, as was becoming quite clear, I was also the victim of long-term emotional, mental, and now physical abuse from him, and in my state of blindsided confusion, I was unable to reach out to him as a friend; I was only capable of seeing him through angry eyes. It may take years before I can put this behind me.

That was May 10th. I suffered a long, eggshell-walking month trying to get him moved out. I managed to win a deal with him—first time ever!—and bought out my share of the Roland VS-2480 recording equipment we'd co-purchased three years ago before he realized what he was losing (because they don't make the hard drive version anymore, they come with onboard CD burners now and he wanted the removable hard drive version, used... which doesn't exist except on eBay, and he refuses to buy sensitive equipment off eBay). He finally got all of his stuff out by June 14th. I immediately took a vacation to my sister's, and came back to discover my neighbor's cat's kitten's situation. That's another story, but the end result of that was that I now have five cats. Three biguns, two littleuns. Total poundage: 52.73. My cats weigh, individually, 23 lbs., 12.13 lbs., 11.6 lbs., and 3 lbs. each for the kittens.

Somewhere in the middle of June I went to a new doctor regarding some female issues and was prescribed Wellbutrin. Interesting drug. Not sure what it's doing to me emotionally, but it has helped me overcome the 3 AM anxiety and the worry loop (wake bolt upright at 3 AM, in a panic, unable to get back to sleep from all the worry in the cyclic worry loop), and the bonus benefit is that it has totally killed off my appetite. I started this year topped out at 187. I'm down to 174 and losing, since June, in part because of the South Beach Diet (not strictly adhering, just adjusting my own eating habits) and in part because of the drugs. The slogan should be "feel great, look great".

By the second week of July, I rediscovered my motivation, and began more frequent trips to the barn. We had some great sessions, some OK sessions, and the last one was... well, awful as far as teaching goes, but great also because I discovered how good her "stick-to-me" game is and how good our BringBack at Liberty is getting. I've also discovered big major gaping Holes in my L1 knowledge base.

For example, I'm sending her wrong on the Squeeze game. No wonder she gets confused! The Send position for Circling is, you're facing the horse, and you spread out your legs, turn in the direction you want her to go and point and look that way. The Send for Squeeze... well, imagine we're in a round corral and there's a barrel lying on its side scooched up next to the fence. I'm standing lined up with the barrel facing the fence. She's supposed to squeeze between me and the fence and over the barrel (jump). Beginning position, the horse is off to my right.

What I've been doing:
  1. Facing the fence
  2. Opposite shoulder (side she'll land on) parallel to the fence
  3. Point to where I want her to land
What I should be doing:
  1. Face the horse
  2. Opposite shoulder perpendicular to the fence, meaning my body forms a 90° angle to the fence
  3. Point to where I want her to land

No wonder she looks at me funny before hesitantly taking the jump.

So I've spent the past few blisteringly hot dishrag days in front of the fan reading my L2 pocket guides very very carefully, step by plodding step, and watching not only the first L2 video several times (taking copious notes and pausing the tape when necessary) but also re-watching the L1 video several times and pausing at every step of each game to study Pat's exact positions.

The interesting thing is that everything on the video looks different now that I'm in L2; I understand why the Games are so important, and I now see very clearly how critical it is that you get the positions and steps right at L1 before tackling L2, because L2 builds on those steps. They truly are the foundation. Nobody understands what that means until they see the L2 tasks and it clicks in. The reason you put your left hand at the nose (Zone 1) and the right hand at the girth (Zone 2/3 cusp) for Porcupining the FQ is because in L2, you will alternate those hands to ask the horse not just to move the FQ around, but to move the far leg, then the near leg, and be able to control which leg goes first! I imagine by L3, maybe by the end of L2, you're not even touching the horse, you're just using the hand signals developed off of the original L1 Porcupine Game to ask your horse from 12 feet away to move the FQ away from you.

I've been kind of lax about it, because nobody ever pointed that out in a clinic. Suddenly, I'm paying closer attention to exactly what Pat demonstrates, and trying to think ahead as to what that might develop into down the road. (That must be a sign of increasing savvy.) I think that should be demonstrated in the clinics. The instructor should say, "I want you to practice it this way (L1 style) for now, but be very particular about hand placement because when you get to L2, you will use this same position to communicate to the individual legs [demonstrates], and later in L3 (or at Liberty), you'll influence the horse using the same positions from 12 feet away—so it's vital that you, and your horse, understand the Zones and how to influence them at L1 before moving into L2 and L3."

So I waffled for a month or so about signing up for Bruce's L2 clinic in Cincinnati in October, despite being offered a ride from the director of Serenity Farm (the therapeutic riding center for whom I designed and maintain the website) because I wasn't sure we'd be ready. Turns out it's an Advanced L2/Intro to L3 clinic. Yikes! I spoke with his business manager, Jen, one of the Cleveland NEON gals, about requirements for being in that level of a clinic. PNH doesn't specify much except that you are able to ride at walk trot and canter and are Official Level One (or have a large percentage of the tasks passed) and are currently studying L2. She went over some of the things Bruce emphasizes in his clinics, and my mission is to cram for the next two months.

Well, I'm pooped. That's enough of an update for now. My new year's resolution: to update my blog more frequently, as in daily or after every session/horseday. That way I won't forget a thing!

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Derby Day

Derby Day
I watched the Kentucky Derby today. Quite a downpour! I was expecting a more interesting race after watching earlier races from each contender at, but it was rather cut-and-dried and therefore boring.

My Trifecta pick was:
1. Imperialism
2. Tapit
3. The Cliff's Edge

with Pollard's Vision fourth. Silly me.

At least Imperialism came in third. I was way off on the others. Smartypants Jones was 11th on my list. I based my pick on intuition (which obviously sucks) and from getting shivers watching how Imperialism consistently in three races broke last, stayed several lengths behind, only to put the pedal down after the last turn and race past the sure thing winners to win by several lengths. I thought he had it in the bag. Should have paid more attention to Smarty Jones record—unbeaten in 6 starts (now 7).

Smarty Jones made it this far—he'd better take the Triple Crown. We need one. It's been too long.

Hope it stops raining so I can get a ride in this weekend.
I forgot to share the most heinous of all post-clinic occurrences.

About a month after FF, Truck and BD left, I received an interesting phone call from the barn manager. She said "I'm assuming you already know about this, but in case you didn't..."

The story from the barn manager was third-party, related by two other boarders who were present at the time. To preface this, allow me to explain that our barn is rather loose and casual. Everyone respects everyone else's stuff, and we rarely leave the tack room locked. We're all friends. We have the policy that if I have antibiotic ointment in my box and your horse gets injured and you need some, go ahead and borrow some as long as you put the tube back when you're done. It's cool as long as we don't abuse the privileges—and most people don't. Horse supplies are expensive. We can't all have a full tube of bute for that hopefully rare occasion we'd need it; so we share.

Except for equipment. That's off limits, unless you have prior permission granted. Mostly because saddles are chosen to fit the horse and rider specifically, and won't necessarily fit another's horse, and because they are darned pricey themselves. Everyone has different taste; some buy the most expensive saddle there is, while others buy used off-brands. But we all respect that. And we all feel comfortable leaving our halters and lead ropes or whathaveyou hanging from our stall doors or just loose near our tack boxes in the tack room. Because nobody's gonna bother them.

The barn manager said that 3P (third party) was in the barn, tacking up for a ride, when FF strolls in, acting like she owned the place. FF was now on her second barn, having moved twice in the span of a month. The new barn was across the state line, up into Michigan.

FF had an appointment scheduled to "train" someone's horse. Using Parelli methods. Which, if you bother to read the back of the pocket guides, is explicitly spelled out to be a HUGE no-no until you've become an Endorsed Instructor (which means you've passed L1, L2, and L3 and have been certified L3 for a minimum of six months; you've studied at the ISC; and have passed 1-star Apprentice and 2-star Junior Instructor status and are now 3-Star Endorsed Instructor and allowed to train/teach unsupervised—which involves about 5 years minimum of post-L1 education).

Of course, FF doesn't think that rule applies to her. She's been getting paid for a couple years now to "train" and "work with" other people's horses to "fix" problems, especially advanced problems with stallions and babies, an even HUGER no-no and strictly prohibited until you are at least Official L2 in the middle of L3—using Parelli's methods. Which would be ok, except that when she started, she wasn't even Official Level One, let alone anywhere near Endorsed. She's still in the midst of L2!!! So she's been turning a blind eye to the rules and breaking them methodically while smiling at Pat and Linda at the conferences and swearing she's following it to the letter. With fingers crossed behind her back.

But her "clients" aren't aware of this. They never even think to question the legitimacy of her "training" their horse. They just see the results she gets with her own beast (and buy the stories she sells them) and put her on a pedestal and she basks in the glory and offers to train their horse. For a fee. Which they gratefully agree to since most people have all kinds of problems with their horses. Even though that is erroneous, it's the horses who have people problems. But FF milks it for all she's worth. In fact, the reason she was so hot to make me fail my Assessment was to prevent my progress so I wouldn't take away her clients!!! Unbelievable! As if I am even interested in "training" other people's horses right now! Sh!t, I'm not even ready to take on my other unruly horse yet!

For one thing, I believe in adhering to the copyright laws and the threat of prosecution and possibly being banned from studying PNH if you go against the rules. For another thing, at Level One, I do not believe I have the capability or savvy level necessary to FIX every problem that might come down the pike. I have the foundation, I have the savvy to understand the basics of horse-human communication and why horses behave the way they do so I can see it from their POV, but I'm still green in so many ways. All of us are, until we are through with Level Three. Level One is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg, and nobody under Level Three has any business even thinking they can train all horses. I would worry about doing more harm than good by making mistakes that an upper-level trainer will have to spend lots of time undoing down the road!

Just cuz you have training wheels on your bike does not mean you are ready to drive a sports car.

So FF was down in Ohio for one of her illegal "training" sessions at a nearby stable. And silly FF, she "forgot" all of her Parelli equipment up in Michigan. And she wasn't about to cancel the appointment or drive back up to Michigan to get it; why should she, when there's plenty of PNH equipment available nearby?

Are you following this?

Now, where do you think she'd have ready access to a whole pile of PNH equipment?

Yep, bright one, you figured it out.

She went after MY Parelli equipment.

The way 3P told it to the barn mgr, FF strolled on in, said a friendly hello to them, asked if I was around or if I was coming out. Nobody'd heard anything about my coming out. So she said she needed to borrow my stuff, that she was sure I wouldn't mind. She was gonna call me but my line was busy... well, "what she doesn't know won't hurt her, right?" big smile. And 3P thought nothing of it because FF made that lame excuse about having called me to ask me and besides, we were buds, weren't we?

And the bitch walked off with my PNH halter, my carrot stick, my savvy string, and my natural hackamore.

Now, as for the call, my line did NOT happen to be busy that day, because both myself and my housemate were at work. And there were no messages... oh, yeah, she told someone else she'd left a message on my machine letting me know she was borrowing my stuff. Lying cunt. Yes, I said cunt. So sue me. There were no messages on either my home or my cell phones. No emails either. Nothing.

So when I finally got home that night after working from 9 am to 10 pm at my old job, and got the barn mgr's message that FF had borrowed my equipment, she hoped FF'd called like she said she did, but she thought she should make me aware of it and that she thought most of the stuff had been returned.

I was dead tired and the last thing I wanted to do was drive to the barn at 10 at night, but that's what I did. I was so livid!!! The NERVE of that little... I roared out to the barn and I found that all my stuff was indeed returned, albeit extremely dirty, thank you very much, and I gathered up each and every bit of my PNH equipment and stuffed it into my trunk. That's where it's stayed since that day in October. I won't leave it there until I get a tack box with a lock. That makes me sad, because now I have to exclude my trusted friends because of one person's actions.

The thing that really pissed me off is that FF had absolutely NO business coming onto the property like that when she does not board there anymore. She had no right to enter that barn and mess with someone else's stuff. To remove it from the stall door was bad enough. To put it in HER car and drive it OFF the property is tantamount to stealing, and had I gone out to the barn while it was still gone, I would have called the cops and had her arrested. But since it all came back, I had no recourse. I made a point of telling everyone at the barn that my equipment AND my horses are off limits to FF, no matter what story she tries to sell.

I could have strangled her.

The obvious first thought that came to my head was that it was a thinly-veiled attempt to hinder my progress further. She knows my employment status, my financial status—both of which have been nil since May 2002 save for that brief stint with my former employer. She knows I wouldn't have the money to replace the equipment right away, and that without equipment, I can't continue. Wouldn't that be perfect? Maybe it was a test to see how I'd react, and that's why she put the stuff back. To see if I'd have the balls to call her on it or just whimper and whine and let her get away with it. I did neither. I didn't contact her, and I didn't whimper. I just removed the temptation. Or maybe what little shred of conscience she actually possesses prompted her to put it back.

That night, I laid in bed worrying. The realization that borrowing my equipment might have been an attempt to throw off my progress got me thinking about what lengths she might actually go to if she perceived that I was a "threat" to her becoming Top Dog. I honestly can't see why she'd think that! My motives for studying PNH aren't even up the same alley as hers! All I want is to feel safe and confident with horses and know what to do with them. I've toyed with the idea of being an instructor, but the fact is, I don't know if I've "got it" to be one; nor do I have the finances necessary to pursue it; plus it takes a lot of time and I really need employment soon. I can't live on air for five to ten years while I become an Instructor. I don't have a rich husband who entertains my every whim and who will pay for my ISC coursework, nor do I have the inclination to risk it all by illegally training horses for money while I study. I'm not interested in competing. She might be, but I'm not. I'm not a threat to anyone!

As I was laying there wide-eyed and worried, I wondered... I allowed myself to examine the possibility that I'd shoved firmly away at the time that maybe FF was somehow behind the break-in. Whomever came in wasn't interested in any of the pricey stuff that could be sold or used. They pretty much went straight for the cash. In MY room. They didn't get any of my housemate's cash. But they took the money set aside for the mortgage. FF had been in my home a couple of times. FF had the grand tour so I could show off my newly-decorated master bedroom. FF likely noticed that I kept my cash foolishly on top of the dresser. FF also knew my schedule and habits from having been friends, and had been married to a cop.

Stuff was "gone through" to make it look good but ONLY the cash was taken. And the housemate's old camcorder. How would that hurt me, you ask? Simple. You can submit video assessments to PNH. Video cameras are very expensive. So... take the cash so the mortgage can't be paid, and take the camcorder so the videos can't be made... gee, now I'm really screwed. Plus, mess up the front door so I have to come up with cash to fix it.

You might ask, why not take the PNH course materials then, since they are sitting right there on the bookshelf in the living room? Duh. Too obvious! Fingers would point right at her. If my money, my video access, and my PNH equipment is all gone, I can't very well move forward, can I? Quite the delay. So I'm laying there mulling this over, freaking.

My worst fear was that she'd up the ante and go after my horse next. Maybe one day, FF would "decide" that my good mare would be "better off with her", and hook up her trailer and drive off with her when nobody was looking. Yes, really, the thought crossed my mind. It still does, occasionally. I know she wants a second horse to get her through L2, and she always said my mare would be perfect for that. She's always been covetous of my horses, because both of them are quite good-looking and muscled, and hers is a Paint with too much racehorse in him. He's butt-ugly. But he's so ugly he's cute. She calls him... the Camel. Yes, that probably is too detailed for safety, but I don't care anymore. She envies my horses. She wants them. Hers likes to run off with her and run into things, break her knee, stuff like that. Not mine. Mine listen.

Or maybe she'd be crueler, do something awful to my horse to hurt or kill her, and ruin my horse's life as well as mine? No horse, no progress.

Knowing the criminal mindset of FF that's emerging, wouldn't YOU worry?

Or maybe I'm just being really paranoid.

Nevertheless, I wanted to pack up my horses and run far, far away where she would never find us.

How dare she trespass and "borrow" my equipment w/o my permission after betraying me like that and trying to ruin my progress but settling for ruining my celebration? How dare she?

No words. No more words left. Unbelieveable.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Barn Update
I forgot to mention all of the changes around the barn. We'll start with humans then move on to horses.

Shortly after my August post, once the weather cooled a bit, I returned to the barn to discover that FF, BD, and Truck had left the building. Permanently. First, they rented a barn together on another side of the park. That lasted a month. Then FF had a falling out with Truck. Truck stayed; FF moved with BD to BD's daughter's barn up north. Within another month, FF had ruined those relationships with details too personal to go into here out of respect for the privacy of BD and others, and had moved a third time. This time, to a snooty barn on the other side of the park that has a covered arena for year-round work. So far FF hasn't pissed off anyone over there; FF is hosting another clinic in May.

I was tempted to sign up me & WF, because no trailer would be needed—I could just trot through the park, stable her, have someone pick me up and take me back to my barn to my car. But I realized it would entail three days of exposure to FF, plus $600 I didn't have, plus the inevitable argument between myself and FF about whether or not I would be "allowed" in. FF's website has a requirement posted about having "attended at least two L2 clinics" prior to registering for this one. Well. What does that mean? Attended as in audited, or attended as in rode my horse in it? I've audited three L2 clinics. I've yet to ride in one. I realize that it's yet another pile of bull built by FF to keep the ones FF doesn't want "interfering" with FF's progress, and decided to opt out.

So far I'm signed on to two other L2 clinics later in the year, which gives us plenty of practice time. And these clinics don't have such ridiculous exclusionary requirements. All you need is to be Official Level One, which I am, and be about 1/3 of the way through the L2 material, which I will be by then. WF is progressing so nicely, I can't see that as being a problem; my guess is it'll be more like 1/2 way through by August. Look out, FF—my good horse and I are hot on your heels.

Truck has not been heard from since, although I have no problem with Truck personally; just Truck + FF. ANYONE + FF is a bad combination, one to be avoided. I've found that the local horse world is difficult to traverse when you aren't certain where loyalties stand. FF hasn't managed to piss off all of NW Ohio yet, but that will happen soon enough.

BD and I are on friendly terms although since BD boards elsewhere, contact has been limited. Hopefully BD, the daughter and I will hook up for a trail ride soon. BD has announced that ties to FF have been permanently and irrevocably cut this time, and that FF's last chance has expired. This is good news. However, I'm playing my cards close until I'm 100% sure of this. Time will tell. I have to make sure BD's resolve is unwavering this time.

Obviously, I'm still avoiding FF at all costs. From the rumors I'm hearing, FF is doing a fine job of turning off a lot of people to PNH. That is very sad. It is people like FF who give good things a bad name. I'm doing all I can to reverse that opinion and continue to represent myself and PNH in the most positive light. I hope that I'm a worthy ambassador for the program.

Casey has been sold and replaced with Junior, who was renamed Moondancer by Rita. Rita finally succumbed to her fear. The final straw was when Casey put Kathleen in the hospital after bucking her off on a trail ride. Kathleen can ride anything with hair. And yet, Kathleen wound up with a sprained back and on crutches for weeks because of her antics. Rita's fear of being hurt again was so great she no longer trusted the horse at all, so she traded her in. I miss her. She was beautiful. Moondancer isn't much to look at, but he's supposedly a calm horse. I haven't been out enough to know yet.

We have a mama and baby at the barn now! Nové is the mama and Bella is the baby. Bella is a 9-month-old Traekner/Oldenburg cross and she is adorable!!! So soft. So friendly. So curious. So BIG for a baby! I am in love. I want a baby horse. I have baby brain, but for horses.

That's all the real news. It's been 70s-80s this week so the barn is filling up again and people are cleaning tack, grooming the woolly mammoths, and realizing that all that Thanksgiving turkey is interfering with their ability to mount without a stepstool! I'm thankful we survived. Thank god for horses. They make life worth living.
Time Flies
The date of my last post turned out to be a harrowing day. Not only was I still upset from the unfairness and betrayal experienced at the hands of FF, but I also returned home from a day visiting my parents to find the window in my front door punched out by a large rock (which was still sitting in the middle of my living room); the door leading out to my garage wide open; and two out of three terrified cats hiding. The third cat remained lost for three more hours, leading to three hours of growing grief and fear that he had been taken by the burglars (perhaps as a sacrifice?) or escaped when they did and had been hit. How does one lose a 25-pound cat? The answer: he wedges himself between the wall and the back of the refrigerator, two feet up off the ground and doesn't squeak for three hours. It was the only place I hadn't looked, that I couldn't imagine him fitting into. All cats were henceforth deemed purrresent and accounted fur, and have slowly gotten over the psychological damage caused by having their safe haven demoralized and trespassed against.

The robber or robbers were actually quite neat about it. They closed the drawers most of the way after rummaging through them and left most stuff where it was. They made off with all of my loose change (about $30), the cash my housemate had just given me for rent and expenses that hadn't yet made it into the bank or used for board ($500), and my housemate's old video camera (hah, joke's on the robbers, it's broken beyond repair anyway). The rock was used with such force that they caused irrepairable damage to the window frame in the door.

The cops came, of course, and I sent them down, guns drawn, to check the basement bc I wasn't sure if they were still in the house and so I'd locked the basement door immediately upon realizing we'd had a break-in to keep them down there. There's no real exit other than the door unless you are tiny, agile and weigh about 50 pounds and can squeeze through the windows past all the debris that's collected in the window wells outside. Thankfully, nobody was there; the cops, however, were quite freaked out—shocked into silence, in fact—when they encountered the five shelving units full of Mage Knight figures staring at them. They took the report, and that was that.

Naturally, this occurred on a Sunday evening, and I was scheduled to start back at my old job on a contract basis the next day. One and a half years of unemployment, my old employer hires me back temporarily, and I have to call in "sick" the very first day because I have to spend the day shoring up the damaged and no longer secure door, shop for a new door, arrange for emergency installation, interview various security companies about turning on the alarm system, and make a gazillion phone calls to insurance and all my credit card companies. Until I cleaned up the mess in the bedroom, I was under the impression that they'd taken the cards too. They didn't. They only took the cash and the camera. And my sense of security and safety, but insurance doesn't cover that. I wouldn't have been in any shape to work the next day anyway.

We cleaned up some of the glass (the entire double-paned 20x30 window had shattered and left a 13-foot-long trail from front door into the kitchen) and my housemate locked the door, put duct tape over the lock, taped cardboard over the window, and stuck a chair under the knob and a huge heavy box against the chair. Confident that that was enough to prevent further intrusion for the night, he went on up to bed and passed out. I, however, wasn't so complacent, and slept sitting up on the couch, fully clothed, with a baseball bat in one hand and my cell phone in the other, jolting awake and jumping out of my skin at every unfamiliar sound. My employer was forgiving, however; I only lost a day and a half of employable time and I managed to squeak about six week's worth of projects out of them before returning to the ranks of the woefully over-educated and unemployed.

It took two months of paperwork and phone calls to straighten out the insurance claims. My reimbursement was enough to cover the cost of the door replacement but that was about it (my housemate is still waiting for his claim to be settled. Nationwide truly was on my side—Allstate, however, is now referred to as Always Late). The good news is, I finally got the new front door I'd been whining about needing. The bad news is, I had to settle for a very unremarkable yet much safer door instead of the gorgeous $1,000 wood door with central skinny arched glass panel that I'd been dreaming of for months. Besides the fact that the insurance company snorted at the price because the original door that came with the house was 25 years old and looked like the $200 doors available today, I deemed that it would be very easy to smash through the central panel with another rock, reach in, and unlock the door. My dream door was no longer safe.

With that behind me, I tried to make the most of the remaining nice fall days, having spent the bulk of the year's best riding time stuck in that windowless office for 40+ hours per week. Then winter and the holidays came, and my horse days were on hold. We were blessed with a few nice days in January, so I got in a "New Year's" ride three days into 2004. That ride started out wonderfully but changed drastically on the way back home. We were due for a big storm, and the horses could sense it. Wildflower became very insistent that we get back to the barn RIGHTNOW and nearly tore my arms off fighting for control. If I'd let her, she would have galloped back home off the trails, over the river and through the woods without so much as a glance to see if that last branch had dismounted me or not.

The remainder of winter became Remodeling Month. As it is with all home improvement projects, two weeks turned into two months but it finally was finished. A cat vs. scanner incident that resulted in the scanner going out of focus and no longer scanning photos clearly lead me to gut and remodel my smallest bedroom so I could move office upstairs instead of leaving it in Grand Central Living Room. Primer, paint, baseboard, bi-fold closet doors, pergo, and all my hard work have produced a lovely lilac and white retreat that is now my bedroom. The master has become my office, complete with gargantuan corner workstation. The living room has been rearranged into a much more pleasing and sparse layout. It's so empty now it feels like a cavern. The temptation to fill it up with "stuff" is hard to overcome.

And here we are. April 2004. It has been eight months almost to the day since my last post. Taxes have come and gone. I find it perplexing that it is more complicated to figure taxes when you're not working than when you are. And why is it that when you are gainfully employed, the government happily gives you money back in the form of refund, but when you are unemployed and need it most, they demand that you pay? Part of the problem is that the former employer sent a 1099-MISC instead of a W-2. Way to send a subtle message: non-employee compensation. OK, I get it. You don't really want me back, you just wanted to use me for awhile in a pinch. I get it.

At least I had some work for awhile.

The coup d'état was that I finally had the chance to reject them. They wanted to keep me on an unpaid retainer—meaning, when they called and said jump, I'd jump. Oh, please, yes, I'm so desperate, please more crumbs, thank you. I had things to do. I was preparing a submission for SXSW, the annual music/art/film festival in Austin. I needed time to finish recording, mix it, package it, get photos taken, write my bio, etc. The deadline was drawing near. I'd already paid the submission fee; backing out because they had a pithy job for me to do was out of the question. So I mustered up my tiny shiny set of balls, the ones I keep locked away in a drawer and out of use, and said thank you but no thanks, I have a project to complete for one of my private clients that has been on hold during my tenure here and I need to prioritize that because they have a deadline coming up.

Not a complete lie; OK, so I'm the client and the project is a demo CD, but nonetheless, it was important to ME, therefore it was due some priority. I finished the project and made the deadline, and the old workplace slowed down so I wasn't needed anyway (still aren't). SXSW didn't invite me to showcase after all, but at least I had the satisfaction of putting my own needs first for a change, prioritizing my musical endeavors, and having the balls to stand up for it all. And I made the deadline. I didn't blow it this time.

Horse-wise, not a lot went on these past months. My other horse, Cheerios, gave me a fright when he developed a sore under his chin. Because he came with a lump on his shoulder that three vets passed off as nothing to worry about, I was concerned and sought the opinion of a fourth vet. He had a needle biopsy that produced great globs of yellow fluid when the needle penetrated the lump (which surprised the vet who wasn't anticipating that, and grossed me out completely) but the results were inconclusive. He then had a tissue biopsy which resulted in three stitches, three staples, more fluid, a few particles, and very benign results: "connective tissue with some fat and mild lymphocytic steatitis". Not cancer, not an infection. End diagnosis: he'd suffered an injury to the area before I'd gotten him (prior to 2001) and the fluid had nowhere to go as it healed so it had just collected.

Nothing to worry about. Unrelated to the chin lump, which went away after 10 days of nightly trips to the barn in the middle of February to hold hot Epsom salt compresses on it.

On tax day, I spent the day at the barn. Hey, I did my taxes the night before—I was allowed. I played with Wildflower. Kind of a get-reacquainted, groom-the-winter-off-of-ya kind of thing to see where things stood after months of non-activity. It would appear that giving them time to "brew" is a good thing! She responded beautifully to the L1 refresher session, mounted and online, and At Liberty Online. Not that she's going 20 feet yet at liberty, but she took enough steps that I can see progress and a definite change from where we left off.

I had a huge triumph, too. Our Sideways Game mounted was acceptable but not gorgeous last year. I thought she might have forgotten, but she remembered fine this year. In fact, she surprised me with how easily she did it today. (Or maybe I surprised her with how easily I asked for it.)

So I said to myself, since we were having such a productive, happy day... what if I drop the lead rope reins (hook them around the horn—remember, now I do everything with a halter and lead rope, no bit or bridle)... and try to ask her for a sidepass using just my body language, mimicing the motions I do with the reins, my body, and legs?

She sidepassed perfectly, both sides. As easily as if I had the reins in my hand and was touching her.

I nearly fell out of the saddle laughing!

I just had to test it a little more (can't quit now) so I attempted to ride her around a little, guiding her only with my body (eyes, head, bellybutton, legs) and though it wasn't pretty or perfect, there was some delay between when I applied the question and when the light went on, there were hints of the future. She had a lot of "try" today; she made the connections a bit hesitantly, but she did figure out eventually that I was asking to turn left, turn right, indirect rein, baaaaaaack up (that was tough, took a lot of repeating and I only got one intentional step so far), trot, walk.

She hasn't figured out stop yet w/o reins (or I haven't). But I'm happy. A couple steps here and there, an attempt to decipher what I'm asking for, that's good enough for right now. I might actually be able to handle carrot stick riding, Cherokee Bridle and all (I wasn't so sure last year). I mean, doesn't it make sense that if you can get a response, however hesitant and sloppy, just using your body, you should be able to get a more refined response with the other tools? Or maybe it's the reverse, I don't know—we'll see!

That's what I'm guessin', anyway! All I know is, I can't wait for the day (far, far away) when I can chuck all the equipment and just hop on and ride like Carol and Pat and everyone does. Just look, and have the horse "be" there. What a free feeling! I got a tester spoonful today and I want more, more, more!!!!!

Of course, as we all know with horses being the way they are, I have to take today's experiences with a huge block of salt bc she probably won't do any of this again for a long, long time.;-) It's a tease. "yeah (says the horse)... I can do all this. when I want to... which is only when the moon and sun are aligned conjointly with venus in retrograde during the seventh quarter moon of the fourteenth year..."

At least I had my moment. It'll give me something to hold onto during the dark days to follow, when even a simple yo-yo game becomes a disappointing nightmare. One step backward.... two—er— C'mon. Just one. One step... no, not on my foot, backward, mare! Again. One step ba—ouch!!! Don't run me over! One step backward... good... two steps forw—dammit! sighhhhhhh