Archive for May, 2008

May 30th, 2008

» preparations

I stand in the kitchen in the grey morning rainstorm light, staring intently at the sheaf of papers on the counter: my braiding cheat-sheets. Keep hands high on the crest, they remind. Thumb in ‘v’. Twist wrist to create torque. My hands are up, smoothing strands of air, twisting, tugging. I gesture a knot, pulling it tight.

Tomorrow, we show.

May 28th, 2008

» RIP Teddy

For those who don’t know, Teddy was the Big Thing in eventing — the 2007 USEF Horse of the Year, and shortlisted for this year’s Olympics. Total superstar, and only 14’1 (and 3/4) — which means he was about 4’8″ at the withers.

Teddy had to be put down this morning. Very sad day for eventers. RIP Teddy.

May 27th, 2008

» lessons

Friday I got off work a bit early — giving me just enough time to squeeze in a barn visit before my weekend guests were due to arrive. I thought it was lovely riding weather, blessedly warm after our snowy April, but it was muggy 70′s coming off a few cooler days, and apparently Ev was feeling a bit sluggish.

His gaits weren’t horrible; he was moving out when I asked. I was concentrating on steady hands, trying to bridge over the two side-rein sessions, and I thought he felt pretty good — had some nice moments of softness, though I suspect half of him going forward into contact was really him schlumping around on his forehand. He had a few trips at the trot; any horse will have an occasional bad step, but it happened enough that I wondered about it, briefly — if the footing was bothering him (it’s a sand arena that tends to be a bit rocky), or if he was a bit body-sore, or what. After a half hour or so I decided we’d go have a nice stretchy canter on the grass track and call it an evening. I’d even practice my jumping seat. So I pulled my stirrups up a few holes, and decided I’d give him a lap around the arena to get him used to my feet up higher before we ventured out.

He picks it up fine and we are going along, hunky-dory, up one long wall, the shorter end, round the corner, and we are coming down the other long wall when he stumbles again; I have a momentary impression of the ground coming very fast, and scraping along it a bit before stopping; I freeze, briefly, all in a flash thinking that I should roll out of the way, wondering if I am about to be landed on, and then thinking — not better, really, but otherwise, envisioning rolling away straight into his oncoming path. It is all only a moment, this decision; I lie still for a breath, waiting. When nothing more happens I push up and turn to see him having just gotten fully upright again, looking a bit shaken, a bit confused. I go to him immediately and he seems fine, all dusty in the face and up the neck but otherwise okay.

I lead him down to the indoor arena (we are done with the outdoor and its rocky footing for today). One of the moms comes to check on us, having heard but not seen it. She kindly brings wet-wipes for my face, which I’m sure is a sight, and for the scrape on my shoulder. I take them and spend maybe longer than necessary wiping up, keeping my hands moving, wondering if they might be shaking a little and not wanting to know. I’d decided almost instantly — not quite while flying toward the ground but certainly while lying there — that I was going to be entirely unruffled by this. Not the first time I’ve fallen, and I’m sure won’t be the last. No big deal.

Inside I lunge him both directions, walk trot canter, and he is (thankfully) moving fine. I let my stirrups back down and hop back on, just some easy walk trot. When we are finished I discover sand between his saddle and pad. I put the same antibiotic on the little scrape on his nose and above his left eye and on my right cheek and shoulder. I inspect his legs, his chest, his neck. All seems well.

My trainer called it laziness; cited the weather; said it happens with the young ones and he will probably never do it again. I like to think it’s a lesson he’ll need just once. I was out yesterday, riding in the outdoor, and he was fine — nary a trip. A little more careful about his feet, I like to think.

That makes two falls in two weeks (the first due to a horse-eating picnic table). I hope we can be done for a while now.

May 23rd, 2008

» May music

I know I never posted new music for April — it was a month of old standbys. I couldn’t find the drive to discover anything new; I was irritated beyond all reason any time I tried. I found it too unsettling. So there you go.

This month, though, I have been liking the band Five Times August — specifically “The Lighting” and “Do It Again”. I went to bed last night and woke up this morning with the latter in my head, only I am a complete idiot about bands and song titles so I had no idea whose song it was or where I’d heard it or even what most of the lyrics were; I was just humming the same little part over and over again, grooving. Really, my life would be better if I could muster the concentration to actually learn lyrics once in a while. Weird, because other than with music I don’t think of myself as a bad listener. Am I, all unbeknownst to myself?

May 21st, 2008

» alley-oop

Update from my last post: I’m not sure how long these pictures will be up, but if you’re interested in having a peek at the sunken roads complex, this series (arrow over to see the next three too) shows a successful negotiation, and this set of nine shows an amazing save after a run-out.

For my lesson last night I asked my instructor if we could do a jump chute for Ev. Setting it up immediately attracted the attention of everyone in the barn, and before we were halfway done we had a mass of spectators (I think there were 10 people in the arena by the end). I wanted to discuss the line my instructor was setting — she started placing every jump and cavaletti we hadn’t used to make the barrier, and I had some reservations about asking my entirely green horse to navigate such a long line — but I was acutely aware of so many people scrutinizing us so closely. I started to ask her about the height and number and placement of the jumps, but there was just no way to discuss it openly with her without looking like I was challenging/disagreeing, which I don’t have the knowledge to do. I wanted to know how many completely green horses she’d started, and what her thought process was, and what this particular question was supposed to be teaching him, but it’s just not a question you can ask in front of half the barn — at least not with the atmosphere then. It was really an uncomfortable situation, and I think it was a little tactless of everyone involved. I was torn between feeling like I needed to be a better advocate for my horse, and feeling like I needed to trust my trainer.

In the end I went with trusting her, and we sent him down — a bounce over two cavalettis, a stride, and a bounce over a cross-rail to a vertical. He did great, and after a few times through we declared him done. I’m really excited to get him started on jumping, but was also a little bummed to’ve spent an entire lesson fee on such a short one, especially given the lack of discussion. (Though I do plan to catch her aside sometime to talk about it further, and try to set up more of a plan for his jumping education — even if that plan is ‘take him to a jumping trainer.’) And then we ran every other horse we could get our hands on through too. It was fun watching them all figure it out, and in large part everyone had a great run their third or fourth time through (the Arab was, of course, stellar on his second). Two of the bigger, more forward horses left the stride out, and they all seemed to enjoy getting the chance to rip down the long wall opposite the chute.

I also practiced my braiding last night for the first time — or tried to, since it too attracted the immediate (and kind of tactless) attention of everyone in the barn. I’m not sure how to give off more of an ‘I’m concentrating please don’t interrupt me or distract my horse’ vibe — apparently mine’s a little weak. Every time I’d get him settled back in someone else would wander by and think it was a great idea to stand in front of him for a chat first with him, then me. It’s good for him, I guess, but I just really wanted to be able to give my first few attempts my full concentration. A bit of a frustrating end to a long day, but I think I learned a few important things: yes, the braids really do need to be that small; and it’s going to take hours to do the full mane the first time, because he’s going to fidget and people do not understand when to stop getting all up in my business. I love all the barn people, I do, but sometimes — bah.