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:
- Facing the fence
- Opposite shoulder (side she'll land on) parallel to the fence
- Point to where I want her to land
- Face the horse
- Opposite shoulder perpendicular to the fence, meaning my body forms a 90° angle to the fence
- 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!