Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hello? Operator?

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
- George Bernard Shaw
This has been an interesting week, seeing as how I haven't been to the barn really at all except to drop off a payment last week. I rode on Monday to get ready for a lesson last night. Monday was awful, to put it mildly. Yesterday was better, but still pretty bad. Abbey is in what the experts call a funk. What's wrong? Who knows. It could be that she is in heat, and in transitional heat which means more bitch than usual. It could be that she got a new pasture mate last week who didn't work out, and was removed for being an idiot. It could be that normal resistance to learning something new and more difficult. It could be that she's just being four. It could be all of these put together.
All I know, and my trainer has confirmed, is that Abbey is not her normal wonderful self. She is more "lookey" and anxious, and nervous about stuff that normally never bothers her. Monday she was acting like she couldn't understand what the heck I wanted when I asked for a lope. She would launch into a hurried lope, and when I would try to collect her with my spur and reins, she would jerk to a halt. Impressive, except not what I was saying, or trying to say. I chalked that up to me not communicating clearly what I wanted, since I was rusty having missed what felt like months of practice. We argued, and she mostly won. That sucks. But Abbey still knows better. She is normally calm, with nice relaxed gaits that you can rate fairly easily with seat, feet, and hands. Monday she was like a bat out of hell no matter if we were walking, jogging, or loping. Awful.
Tuesday our lesson was better because K had schooled her already. She still was walking to beat the band, so we worked on me learning how to correct that with my spurs (ask twice, tell the third time with a firm whoa and back command, then walk off quietly again). We changed up the bit to a twisted snaffle, pretty skinny, so we could work more on her lateral flexion and getting her neck, poll, and jaw unlocked, and also asking for some tight circles over two logs at a 90 degree angle at the walk and jog. This worked on a physical level as well as mental, because it forces her to pay attention to me, to wait for instruction, and to watch where she is going and work to avoid the obstacles. It helped a little and we ended after getting some better results with that.
It was a frustrating two days, but I know it will get better.
As a side note, K and I went to a ranch horse show on Saturday. I was so excited to see something new and to watch what I was certain would be excellent horse and rider teams. I mean, who would dream of chasing cows around without being a well-oiled team? Apparently a lot of people. It was painful to watch bad riders jerking and spurring what were clearly young and unfinished horses who were barely saddle broke, maybe green broke in the best case scenarios, and definitely not finished except for one or two of them. Most of them were in huge shanked bits that they had no way of yielding to because no one had ever shown them how. There is a lot more to all that cowboy stuff than looking the part, but sadly that is all most of the people there knew how to do. It was just really depressing. The worst part was the trainer that kept telling his clients what a great run they had after patterns where they were never on the correct lead, couldn't tell if it was a turn on the fore or haunches, or even if they were riding a pattern at all, except on that meant spin in crazy circles, jerk the horse's head, speed trot into an off-balance in hand gallop, jerk to a stop, toss head, and jig. What the hell is wrong with people? At least the students have the bad excuse of not knowing any better, but the so-called professional should be horsewhipped. The horses I saw tolerating this kind of poor treatment and misguided riding are truly saints for not dumping their riders and heading for the hills.
I am glad to be learning from someone who emphasizes building a foundation and making progress at a pace that is right for the horse and rider, and doing remedial lessons like I had yesterday to make sure that the lines of communication are open both ways. I wish the best for all those teams, but it would sure help if they were speaking the same language.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Red-Tailed Hawk

Still no barn time this week, which is a bummer. I've been stuck at work most days, but will be getting some Abbey time tonight hopefully!

I will say that while I am at work the view is pretty nice, other than the enormous new office building under construction that now disrupts my view of the sky. The benefit of having four huge windows in my "office" overlooking a green space is the opportunity to see some fun wildlife. Most of the time it's the garden variety of rabbits, squirrels, songbirds, and suburbanites trespassing from the neighborhood behind the office to walk to the YMCA across the street (a HUGE pet peeve of mine, since they walk right right by me sitting at my desk about three feet away, staring in at me. F-ing creepy and strange. Maybe I should do that at their houses...)

In spite of the huge crane and superhighway of gym rats, occasionally we are treated to a special visitor, the red-tailed hawk. The wingspan is massive, and their beauty unparalleled. I got really lucky today with a pretty awesome shot out the side door as our visitor pounced on a mouse or a mole and flew off into the brush. It was taken with a low-end work camera, but the action in the shot is perfect. Not a bad day at the office.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Real Horsewives of Kalamazoo

So, I haven't posted in what feels like forever. Not because nothing was happening, but because a ton was happening. I traveled for work last week to Denver, then to Atlanta to visit my little sister. I got back on Monday this week and work has been relentless ever since. So, needless to say, my horse time and workout time have decrease in direct proportion to the amount of crappy food I have been eating. Blah. I did get to the barn for a very brief ride tonight - it was AWESOME! We are learning spur stop, and my baby is just so stinkin' smart it blows my mind. Love her :)

Sweet Girl
My sister introduced me to the epic saga of the Real Housewives on Thanksgiving holiday some years ago. After the initial confusion/disgust wore off, I was as addicted as the millions of other viewers who only admit being addicts in the tree of trust, when they know they are among other addicts. I have followed each jab, backstab, jealous sneer, manipulative gesture, tearful confession, and what I hope are sincere moments with a forensic approach over the years of viewing this interesting period of documenting human culture. As a former Anthropology major, I shudder to think what future Archaeologists will have to say about this period of our lives... yikes.

Any whoodle, people (my husband and most strait men) wonder what in the hell makes us fans cling to every word that falls from such polished lips. What makes us DVR and then rewatch episodes, dissecting every nuance of body language until we have extracted the very essence of some stranger's being? Well, it became clear to me while I was visiting my sister this past weekend. It has been a while since we watched RHOWherever together, and even longer (never) since we really connected as two adult, married, 30-something women who really just want to have a clue what this whole thing called life means. In our younger years, we knew exactly what it was all about (ha). Now, I think we are both seeking answers to questions that somehow become more pressing as time gets crunched together and speeds past. Tearful topics like having kids or not and doing that thousands of miles apart or who was the favorite of which parent or wishing for more memories of loved ones that passed on far too soon or what song your dad wants played at his funeral (I am SO not ready to talk about that, but he picked a really awesome one, because he's awesome. Also, I think he is just a planner and there's no real need to worry beyond the normal who-knows-if-today-is-our-last menlancholy stuff.) Man, gonna need the tissues again....

I think that what this particular brand of reality television offers, along with the good ole' Kardashians and their myriad of shows, is an opportunity to compare our lives to other people's, take notes, and tweak the parts we don't like - sort of like looking in a mirror. Yes, on the surface it is a superficial mirror, and I don't see much of my material life reflected in my TV screen when I look at them. But when I look deeper I see women who, at their core, want to be loved, accepted, liked, and have a sense of purpose in this crazy world, misguided as they may be. Yes, they are petty, self-centered, manipulative, etc.  and I always wonder how many people would like me if I had to live my life in public like that (probably zero). And when I look at ugly interactions between people that are, to an extent, real, I can place myself there and say, wow, I would hope that I could handle that better, with more patience, love, and compassion. "Hope" being the operative word. I have a bit of a temper.

The most recent episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey found our castaways at a ranch where they were getting some horse therapy. I watched the episode, and the horse played a really small part, but the impact on people seemed to be huge. Even though these situations are staged for the camera, you can't fake a visceral reaction of fear to a 1,000 pound animal, or the glow of self confidence that comes with conquering a fear.

The Horse Screamer

What does this all have to do with anything? Who really knows, but I found a lot of comfort sitting with my little sis on a couch in our PJs, comparing our inherited  mom-isms (would you like me to make you an egg?), judging other people, finding the good and bad in them, and hoping that we find our way without quite so much drama. A little drama just means you care, right? Introspection aside, time with family is invaluable, irreplaceable, and something that I hope to God I have much more of in the years to come. And when I reach my saturation point, I always have my therapist to turn to.

Abbey, Horse Therapist