The Real Life Questions Jane Absolutely Positively WILL NOT ANSWER, NUH-UNH

This comes from a post-a-day prompt thoughtfully provided by WordPress.  What questions do I hope a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist NEVER asks me?

We all know Jane is never going to be interviewed by anyone other than a very obscure journal called: “Women Who Eat Too Much Sugar and The Horses Who Get Miffed By Rider Weight Gain”.

If she’s lucky.

This is what I don’t want you to know.

      1. Do you have an imaginary friend?
      2. What is on your bucket list?
      3. How many times did you lie to your mother about her Mother’s Day Card already being mailed?

Questions I wish someone would ask me:

  1. Where do you see Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys heading?
  2. Would you like the rest of this cake?
  3. How many bugs would you say were in your childhood?

What the heck.  Let’s go for it.

1. Do you have an imaginary friend?

No. I do not have an imaginary friend. But really, we should let Sir Doodelus and Lady Cramplebug weigh in on that. They have a problematic love child that is a cross between a green beetle and…something glittery…who is in a completely unsuitable relationship with a hairy bumblebee named Ferdinand. Their lives are complicated and involve way more drama than I am comfortable with.

2.  What is on your bucket list?

“Bucket List” makes people think of Zip Lines, and Jumping Out of Airplanes, and traveling to Obscure Countries without proper inoculation. I am not a “Bucket List” person.  I find movies terrifying. My brain understands my body is just sitting in a room watching light flicker, but my soul is certain I will die a horrible death when that car being riddled by bullets from a semi-automatic sails over the guard rail, bursts into flame, and plunges 1000 feet down into a gorge, end over end.

Not that I’ve thought about it.

Fine. I’ll go over the guard rail. The Bucket List:

1. Reading with Goats.

#1 on the bucket list: Reading With Goats
#1 on the bucket list: Reading With Goats

This is Jane’s speed. That pink blob is the neighbor sitting out in her field, reading with her goats. While we don’t appreciate Goat Trees, we do love to see our neighbor reading in the sun, surrounded by happy goats.  This is the back of the neighbor’s home. The properties abut. If the neighbor wasn’t some complicated distance away off another road and a couple zillion random driveways, Jane would have already knocked and asked if she could come read with their goats. And we wouldn’t be hearing from her, because she’d be locked up some where.

2. Listen at least 100 more times to David Sedaris reading his story “Jesus Shaves.”

Hahahahahahahahahahah…oh…you’re back….

3. Spend even more quality time with certain friends:

My friend, Rock.
My friend, Rock.

4. Explore my Native American Heritage.

Honeymoon 2008 072
I found this three-story, paper mache example of a Native American in Idaho. Rock was there too.

Being a Native American is hilarious.  We tilt-ily rode lime green dinosaurs, without a saddle or bridle. Who knew?

5. Keep My Horse Off Twitter

This is turning out to be surprisingly difficult.

6. Hoard, I mean “Rescue” a bunch of these guys.

Twenty eight inches at the withers. Totally would fit in the car seat.
Twenty eight inches at the withers. Totally would fit in the car seat .

And look, he clips!

So adorable.  A teeny tiny buckskin.  With manners!
So adorable. A teeny tiny buckskin. With manners!

Enough of the Bucket List.

3. How many times did you lie to your mother about her Mother’s Day Card already being mailed?

Too complicated.  I’d have to do the math. How old I was when I started mailing Mother’s Day Cards times the guilt factor (Number of times I repeated, “No really, it should be there by now!”) minus the times I didn’t even pretend I’d mailed it on time.

Waaaay too complicated.

What are the questions you ARE NOT GOING TO ANSWER?

How My Elbow Became Famous, and Why We Need to Review Appropriate Birthday Presents

Part One: in which I have a birthday near the end of October, and get many appropriate presents, and one randomly inappropriate present that everyone else wants…really really badly.

My birthday started well.

The two candles: my mom didn’t have a fire extinguisher handy to deal with the potential blow back of my real age. (Or my mom likes to remind me I’m really only two, and could grow up?)

She knew I was coming, so she baked a cake.  Thanks Mom!
Chocolate. FROSTING. Does my mom know me, or what?!? And yes, there is a cloth hamburger on her table. It’s Jane’s MOM. Who else would decorate with cloth hamburgers?

Shaun gave me pajamas. With ZEBRA socks. Pink, fuzzy, happy, zebra socks.

I could live my entire life in pajamas. I think most of the world’s problems could be solved by making the Leaders of The Free World wear bunny slippers and Spiderman PJ’s to work.

And…the birthday gift that keeps on giving.  Hudson. Thank you Shaun, Micah, and Lee Lee!

What? I'm up here. Please. Go on. Rub my knee some more.
What? I’m up here. Please. Go on. Rub my knee some more. Where ARE you going with this, BTW…?

Bella, Daisy, and Alice got together and made me cry. On purpose. And I liked it.

Made from hair stealthily swiped from Hudson’s tail. So I could have him with me always. Don’t tell Shaun? But right up there with my wedding ring. *sniff*  Exquisite work, Tail Spin!

My favorite things in the world. Frosting, Family, Friends, Familiars*.

Being loved is the best gift of all.

*Familiars: couldn’t think of a positive word for equines that started with an F. The only thing that came to mind rhymed with “trucking”. Hudson developed a terrible case of mud-less scratches that need a lot of staring, poking, soaking, drying, patting and rubbing of 6 different creams in a weekly rotation. Horses. I’m avoiding the word…”truck”.

My body decided to jump into the gift giving Fray. (Hey look, I’m on an F roll.)

Ta Da! Below is  how Jane’s body sings “Happy Birthday to youuuuu.”

Yep. A third elbow. Just what I always wanted.
A third elbow. Just what I always wanted.

Nice.

I couldn’t seem to make myself worry. Who the heck has ever heard of Elbow Cancer? Shaun Googled the crap out of it, and tried not to look totally freaked out in front of me. I pretended not to notice the stealthy Googling and I Am Not Freaked Out – No Really, look on her face.

Luckily, I didn’t have to pretend not to care about the lump.

It’s just a lump.  I can live with a lump. Heck, Hudson lives with a lump.

Lump Schlump.

Still Giant. Still not hurting him. Still Freaking people out all over the world.
Still Giant. Still not hurting him. Still Freaking people out all over the world.
Would a third elbow help me be lighter on the reins?
Would a third elbow help me be lighter on the reins?

Fine. Fine. I promised Shaun I’d go to the doctor.  Then I promised the trainer, who poked the lump, said “I think it’s bigger than last week…?”.  Then I promised Daisy, Bella, Carlos, and Alice I’d go to the doctor. Promising to take care of it bought me a lot of time to ignore it completely.

Denial. My favorite method of self-care.

Doctor said, “Huh”, looked me in the eyes, then back down at my arm, “only you.” She pushed on the lump. “Does it hurt?”

Oh goody, I can rack up another bullet point in Jane’s “Let’s Not Slice Our Body Open” PowerPoint presentation:

“Nope. Doesn’t hurt at all”, I say, “It’s fine”.

Doctor looks at me.  “Lumps of unknown origin are NOT fine, Jane. Probably a cyst from synovial fluid.  You sure you didn’t bump your elbow?” Pause. “Hard?”

Denial is so….passive. Suddenly remembering a blow hard enough to cause a lump the size of a golf ball is not passive.  I’d be actively lying. Even if I substitute the harsher word “lie” for the innocuous sounding word “prevaricate”. Hmm…could I work with actively prevaricating…?

Maybe my mom was right: two birthday candles sort of sum up my emotional age. Don’t look at it, don’t touch it! It’s not THERE! It’s nothing!

Damn. Have to get it checked out.

I didn’t bother to take Shaun with me for the ultrasound.  They’re not allowed to tell you results. The plan: I’d go, stay happily in denial, and pick up a latte on my way home.

Um. Yeah. About that. How many of us can read the ultrasound while our vet is still running the wand over our horse? Right. I knew instantly it wasn’t fluid.  Solid tissue. I watched her do density scans.

The tech nervously leaves to: “check with the doctor that the films are clear and shot from the correct angles and stuff.” Even I know that’s technician-speak for: “Uh Oh. Must find DOCTOR.”

Denial is great.  I shrug. Decide my body couldn’t handle all the frosting I was ingesting (whoops…my bad) so it helpfully created a nice frosting lump behind my elbow, where it wouldn’t be noticeable.

Heyyyyyy…It’s a buttercream tumor! On my funny bone! I can’t wait to tell everyone: it will be a piece of cake to remove.  It has to go, because it’s on my Last Nerve!  HA HA HA HA HA HA ha ha ha ha ha….um…niggle niggleha?

I go back to my detective novel.

Dr. Radiologist comes in. “Can I…see…it?”, she asks tentatively, sounding nothing like the professional doctor she obviously is.

Oddly, she has the voice of a woman in Tiffany’s asking the saleslady if she could just look at a gazillion carat diamond ring.

“Uh. Sure”, I say, and poke my elbow into the air.

“Can I…touch it…?” she asks, in – I swear – the reverent voice of a woman asking to TRY THE RING ON.

“Sure?”, I say.  She’s not going to try to take it, um, out of the box, is she?

I hear excited whispering outside the exam room door. “No it’s in there.  Just wait. Maybe we can see it!! Shhhhhh!!! Did anyone tell Meghan…?”

  This is what a 69.42 carat diamond looks like. .
You’d think carbon based life forms – such as ourselves – would be able to produce a sparkly carbon based hunk of rock. You’d never have to worry again that your insurance won’t cover medical costs for retrieval. Hospitals would be RICH. And people with gallstones…? Kazillionaires.

My unusual lump started an epic odyssey of specialist surgeon visits, MRI’s, blood tests, and immediate surgery scheduling.  Not a fatty tumor.  Apparently a tumor so rare, most specialists never see it in their life time.

I don’t do immediate.  I’m not good with ch*nge. I tried hard not to panic when the first surgeon said, “Let’s see, today is Friday…Sue call St. Mary’s and see if we can book an OR for Monday.”

MONDAY? As in Saturday, Sunday, MONDAY??? This whole time I’d been thinking…January…was doable.

I needn’t have stressed over immediate. The medical community was jazzed. I felt like I was…correction…I felt like my tumor was about to hit the talk show circuit, and possibly end up with its own Mercedes. I waited in endless green rooms, doing coffee shots and waiting  for the signal it was time to thrust my elbow in the air in front of an all white-coated crowd. Wait for the collective gasp.  Oooohing and Ahhhing.  If I could have sent my elbow to the appointments without me, I would have. It started begging me for celebrity sunglasses, hip-hop style.

I was lucky.  The best nerve trauma surgeon in the country (referred to in medical circles simply as: The God) swept in and said to the other bickering neurosurgeons, “Neener neener, sorry about your luck underlings, it’s MINE.”

I raised my hand.  “Yes?”, he said.

“Uh. Can I come too?”, I said.

I was feeling a little unclear on the concept: does the famous tumor go in, and the (thankfully) unimportant mother of the tumor wait outside?

“Sure”, he said, and smiled a killer Hollywood surgeon-smile, complete with tooth twinkle.

Tooth twinkles: a sure sign that things are not what they seem.

…to be continued.

(Spoiler alert: I’m fine. We don’t need to worry.)

In Which New Boots Have Unexpected Consequences

New Mountain Horse tall boots!

Yay!  And OW!

For the non-horsey: tall boots are cut at least an inch too high, because the leather will soften and drop around your ankles a bit.  This means they cut into the tender area behind your knee, while awaiting maximum drop, and rub the crap out of your heel tendons.  Blister city.

These weren’t too bad.  I walked a whole twenty feet before developing my first blisters. (Trust me, boots exist that are capable of blistering most of your leg in under five feet, flat.)

I invested in super padded self-stick gauze bandages.  They’re keeping my blisters from getting blisters.  Win-win. (It takes iron will-power to break in new boots.  New boots do everything they can to break you right back.)

Yesterday, I forgot to pack an extra pair of footwear for the barn, in case I had to walk farther than 50 feet. (The gauze pads give me 30 feet of extra walking range!)

I rode Hudson, and we had a terrific workout. I think we actually made an entire circuit of the arena in a semi-correct position.  Hudson worked up a sweat.  I worked up a sweat.

The boots were incredibly comfortable up here:

Hudson and I usually go pick up Woodrow to pony before we start, or after we’ve finished.  It gives Woodrow an extra 20-30 minutes of walking (he’s in PT) and Hudson gets company for the booooring part.

20 minutes into our cool-out ponying walk, Hudson is still steaming.  Ordinarily, this is the point where I’d get off, untack, and just hand walk the boys.

I look down at my boots.  So not going to happen.

I drop the reins on Hudson’s neck, tuck Woodrow’s lead rope under my leg, and text Bella:

Jane: Hmm…ponying.  H isn’t cooling out.  Ok to switch seats, pony H off W?

I wasn’t sure if weight-bearing had been added to Woodrow’s physical therapy. I stare at the screen in my hands, while using my seat to direct Hudson around the arena. God I love this horse.  A horse you can pony from and text on at the same time? Goldmine. I wait for the return text bing. Resist the temptation to play Bejeweled.

Even I can’t justify playing a game on my cell while riding.

Bing.

Bella: Sure!  Go for it.

I’ve only been on Woodrow once, months ago.  I don’t usually do first rides bareback in a halter, but it felt fine…?  He had been mildly surprised, but it went well. I’ll do the same thing today.

I untack Hudson, still steaming, and halter him. When I do not take the expected course up to their paddock, they glance at each other, ears swiveling in a horse code (similar to Morse code) of chatter. I try to ignore them talking behind my back. It makes me feel like a school marm.

Woodrow: Dude. What’s she doing?

Hudson: No idea.  Bizarre. You hungry?

Woodrow: Always.

Hudson: Stupid. We could be eating.

Woodrow: Hey, there’s still some lunch left.  Try leaning.

Hudson: Leaning?

Woodrow: Lean toward the food?  Like…you know…hint.

Hudson: I do not lean. Leaning is beneath me. I yank.

Woodrow: Whatever. Too late. Look where we are.

Hudson: Damn.

I’m standing on the mounting block, calculating distances, trajectories, and potential Jane-velocity.  Woodrow is only slightly shorter than Hudson.  Not entirely sure I can “leap” instead of “lower” myself on his bare back.  I try to factor in that I’ll be leaping while holding another horse.

Hmm. I change the angles in my head.

One of the trainers takes pity on me and offers me a leg up.  After my last fiasco getting a leg up, I turn her down flat, but thank her profusely for holding Hudson, so the only thing I have to work out is how to get ON Woodrow.

Turn  mounting block on its side, pretend I’m ten….

I’m on in 2 seconds, with no embarrassing misses. Age denial: it’s a good thing.

Woodrow is bulked up like an Offensive Lineman. He’s a tank! How great is that? Tank horses are comfortable. I can hear Hudson sniff: leaner horses are more graceful.

(Not true, but I’m not going to hurt his feelings.)

The trainer smiles and hands me Hudson’s lead rope. Woodrow’s head is high in the air, very still, one questioning ear turned toward me. I laugh. It’s adorable:

Woodrow: Hi….?

I pat him on the neck.

Jane: Hi! We’re going for a walk, cutie pie.

I expect this to answer his question. I am so wrong. The conversation has just started.

Woodrow: Yeah. Um…I think you made a mistake.  This is how it goes? You ride that horse, and I keep you company. Not in my owner’s manual that you have clearance?

Woodrow (to Hudson): Cutie pie?

Hudson shrugs.

Jane: No, it’s fine, I called your mom. We’re just going to walk. You and Hudson are just trading jobs.

I squeeze with my legs, and lay the lead rope against his neck: let’s go that away.

Both ears swivel back at me. Not a hoof moves.

Woodrow: Nooo…I think this is wrong…? That horse lugs you around.  I stroll and rubberneck.

Huh.  Meanwhile, Hudson has begun tossing his head, uncharacteristically surging forward and back, antsy to get going.  I stare at Hudson.  One of Woodrow’s ears swivels, pointing at Hudson.

Woodrow: Hey.  She’s smart after all! Who knew? (Sotto voice: Hudson, she looked at you when I pointed!)

Woodrow: (back to me) That’s right. You ride him.  See? He wasn’t lost.  You didn’t look hard enough.

Pause.

Woodrow: You can get off any time.

Hudson is eyeballing the soft dirt of the arena. Uh-Oh.  I see horsey dust angels in the bubble over his head.

Hudson: I’m naked!  Naked naked NAKED!  OOOooooooo….I love being naked. Mom? Look the other way for just a sec, K?

Woodrow: Dude. I’m naked too. And she’s on me.  Think you can focus, and help out with that?

Hudson: Uh. No.  Hey. THAT looks like a good spot to roll.

Woodrow: No one is rolling. Not if I can’t.

Although he hasn’t responded to my squeeze, clucking noises, or neck rein, Woodrow and I are on the same side. No. Rolling.  I pull his lead to the side and tattoo his ribs lightly with my calves.

Woodrow: What? No!  You still think you should be up there?  MISTAKE.

Hudson: Haha! Neener neener.  It’s not a mistake. C’mon, let’s GO. We used to do this all the time with Dinero. Look guy, NBD, okay?

Woodrow: Who the heck is Dinero? And dude, don’t yank me.

Jane: He’s right W, let’s go. You have to cart me around for a while.

Hudson: Told you.

Jane: Hudson, shush. You’re not helping!

Woodrow: This is so wrong. Fine.  I’m walking.

Pause.

Woodrow: Hey. Cute mare, twelve o’clock. Check out the wash rack!

Hudson: Dude. Awesome.  She’s hot.

Suddenly, we’re walking briskly toward the wash rack. Um. Gelding I’ve don’t know very well (from up here) touching noses with mare I don’t know? So not going to let that happen.

I rein him away, rather abruptly.

Woodrow to Hudson: Told you this was wrong.

Hudson: Damn.

We walk.  Every now and then Woodrow slows a bit and swivels an ear back to me.  Couldn’t be clearer.

Woodrow: NOW are we done…?

I cue him to keep moving out.

Jane: No. And you just made the time longer.

Woodrow: Shoot.

Hudson: Now you know what I have to put up with. And stop asking. I’m hungry.

Jane: Hudson, SHUT UP.

Hudson: (innocently) Geeze, just talking.

Woodrow: Dude. How do you stand it?

Jane: Guys? Helllllo.  I’m right here.  I can hear you.

Woodrow and Hudson, simultaneously: SO?

New boots. The source of blisters on many levels.

But SO worth it.

(I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!)

When Your Horse Is Smarter Than You…

You get trained.  Well Trained.

I take some comfort that I know I’ve been trained.

It only takes me hours to figure it out.

Returning Hudson back to his paddock, I stopped short and smacked myself on the forehead with the flat of my palm: Jane! You did not teach Hudson to pick up his sore hoof using carrots as a reward.  

Hudson taught YOU to give HIM carrots on demand, by firmly planting that hoof until a carrot was waiting to be offered.

Oh. No. No no no no NO. Seriously? Please, please, PLEASE let me be wrong.

I immediately turn around and reach for his ‘Sore’ Hoof.

Hudson immediately shifts 1100 pounds to the Hoof He Can’t Bear to Lift…

…while he activates his carrot scanner, turning his neck toward me and whuffling the air near my back pocket.

DANG it. He got me. Again.

This is the third or fourth time I’ve belatedly realized I’ve been trained.  It’s embarrassing. I’ve never been the owner who gets trained. I’ve always been the bossy owner: Stand still! Feint a bite in my direction while I tighten the girth and you die! Hoof, NOW. Don’t even look at that grass while I’m leading you.

I wonder if he and his pals in Mensa Equine trade Dumb Owner jokes in secret meetings. He has the intelligence, will, and scientific curiosity to finagle himself into being the dictator of a small country.

Uh.

Insight: I’m the small country.

(Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to unload 100 pounds of carrots out of the trunk, and six giant tubs of Mrs. Pasture’s cookies….I think I feel the need to throw away all the worming paste too.)

Impatience is a Good Thing…

…when it allows you to drop the reins, film your horse, and claim he’s being gentlemanly.

Open, closed, if it’s in his way, it bugs him. He’ll close the arena gate as we pass by if it was left open, and is blocking the line on the rail.

Oh Hudson, how I love thee!

Ah, Spring.

So far, this has incited Hudson into two jail breaks.

#1: After getting shoes. He has a most excellent farrier, Dane, who offered to return him to his paddock (probably so I’d stop hanging around trying to look busy, neither of them need me to be present) when done being shod.

I go to the feed store.

An hour later, Laurie spots them surreptitiously grazing in an inconspicuous spot quite close to their paddock. They think we won’t notice the lack of fencing in front of them. Laurie said both their attitudes were something like this: “No no, we’re fine. We’re supposed to be here.  Just grazing.  Near our paddock.  See? There’s a fence.”

#2: Bella steps out her back door in time to see Hudson pick the lock on the main gate, setting himself and Woodrow free.  This gate is closed with a horse-proof carabiner type clip. We still don’t know how he managed this feat.

I generally have to fuss with it to get it open. It’s a clumsy operation.

Hudson and Jane are back on the ouchy-achey road to fitness. Six weeks off of Real Riding might as well be a year for me.  I don’t have even half an Ab left. My inner thighs are sore from posting for ten minutes.

(Oh, the SHAME…I mean, um, it’s so, uh, good to be reminded of what beginning riders have to go through…)

You may  have to put up with less than stellar blogging as my brain takes the ouchy-achey road back to thinking…

(FYI, I missed you guys a LOT!)

Hitting the ‘Reset’ Button: Rider Fitness

Jane, after watching yesterday’s video:

Whoa. Horse people:

The dedication.

The successes.

The animal to animal communication.

The risks.

The lumps.

Look at all those athletes – wait – look at all the athletes I know.

I am struck with awe as I remember the horse events I’ve witnessed.  I feel so proud.

“She’s got THAT right. Horses are not sofas that move!”, I scoff.

“I am part of a nation…no a WORLD…of athletes…”, I think (smugly), wonderingly.

8 seconds later, the words “sofa” and “athlete” are still kinda ringing in my ear.

Um. About the athlete part…?

Jane’s video would include a lot of throw pillows.  Possibly a comforter.  For the last month, Hudson has been a moving sofa. I’ve alternately lounged on him and paid him for psychotherapy, resting my head on his butt.

(Granted, he’s a highly athletic sofa with dressage movement and a penchant for cows.)

Honestly? He’s been kindly packing my butt around during and after the whole dad dying in our house thing. (Minimizing is the first step to Denial, which is the fastest way out of Pain. Stay with me here.)

I have shown up at the barn, sporting my newly expanded waistline, throwing a lot of padding on his back, and hoisting myself up to “ride” bareback.

(I’m lying.  He’s 16 hh, and I’m old.  Hoisting is out of the picture. I lower myself on his back from a retaining wall, and reach a hand out to fluff up any smooshed flowers.)

Hudson sighs, rotates his ears back, and stands there with a big –  ? – over his head. I give him the cue to walk on. He sighs again, and downshifts into Amble. We’re off. Usually with Dinero on the end of a lead beside us.  (Being a sofa is much more fun if you can do it with a friend.)

I’ve thrown in a little trot, canter, and being on the bit here and there, to perpetuate the idea that I’m actually doing something. I’m riding in whatever clothes I threw on that morning. No stirrups = capris and athletic shoes? Tank top and sweats? What’s the problem?

Confession: I’m Jello.  Jell. O.

Athletic? Ha.  I’m proving all our tormentors (and doctors!) right: the horse does all the work. Riding isn’t an athletic sport.

I can’t let THAT stand.  I’d be letting down the entire Equestrian Nation.

I proclaim today to be “Jane Stops Procrastinating Day”.

Prepare for tales of Cake Deprivation, Gym Torture, and Righteous Riding Joy.

My goal is to become (and stay) an equestrian athlete. It’s one of those dang goals I have to set over and over again. I’m not a bit lazy.

I might be rather Gym Challenged.

I might also have a slight Pilates Deficiency.

But I’m on it!

(Just as soon as I sweep away all these empty candy wrappers….)

Murphy Monday: The Warmblood Registry Inspection

Barbie and Murphy’s RPSI inspection was Sunday.  RPSI stands for something I am unable to pronounce, but I’m told is a Warmblood registry.

We dubbed ourselves “The M Team”. We joked about getting shirts embroidered, so we’d all match on The Big Day. (We didn’t actually DO this, that would take effort.) When it finally got warm enough for us to peel off our jackets, I cracked up. Everyone was wearing a black shirt and jeans. I guess we know The M Team colors!

The M Team getting ready:

Deborah works on Barbie, while Bella body blocks from the front. Barbie is standing at the entrance to the trailer.  If Bella moves, Barbie will launch herself inside.

Barbie believes:

  • She’s famous
  • Bella’s trailer is a Tour Bus
  • Being clean and braided means her World Tour is starting
  • World Tours require an inordinate amount of grain

Hilary tidies up Murphy’s sock:

Daisy gathers allllll the crap you don’t dare leave behind, because you will totally need it if you leave it at home.

Murphy loads into the unfamiliar trailer in under five minutes.

The boy has courage. The practice trailers were painted white inside. Rock Stars prefer low lighting: The Tour Bus is dim. Bella reported a completely quiet, no scramble ride. All systems GO.

Until our caravan arrives.

The place is packed. Getting in and out with a 4-horse rig does not look promising. Bella couldn’t pull in until she knows how she can get out facing forward. Narrow, busy road with blind hill.

Jane decides to help by checking out distances and vehicle positions.  Jane, who hasn’t hauled anything in 20 years. Let’s just say it’s a darn good thing Bella decides to check the situation in person.  The conclusion: if  one car moves, the rig can be maneuvered to get out.

There are reasons you should never take Jane (we always use the third person when embarrassed) to important events.

See? There was this car? And if it got relocated, Bella would be able to drive the 4 horse rig in a nice loop to get out, instead of backing up with a kazillion miniscule 3-point turns…?

Jane makes it her mission to find out who belongs to the car, and get it temporarily relocated.

She had no idea she was being, um, directive with the actual inspector. The man who would approve – or not – Murphy and Barbie. Good news: he did not recognize Jane later, in the inspection arena.

Here is Murphy seconds after unloading from his first ride in a trailer, standing in a place he’s never seen, with horses calling, squealing, wheeling in paddocks, and people chattering. Not a drop of sweat. He’s surprised, maybe slightly concerned, but going with the program. No drama.

Glenhill Farm hosted the inspection with organized grace, professionalism, precision and excellent humor. Lovely facility, lovely owner and staff.

Barbie and Murphy wait their turn in a fairy tale stall, deeply bedded with fresh straw, a huge pile of hay to keep them occupied.

While Daisy fills out paperwork in the office, M Team wanders around. There is no mistaking Murphy’s older half-brother, Tiko, who is also there for the inspection:

Their temperaments and beautiful faces are so similar it was both cool and spooky. Finally, the orientation is given, and we check the list for lineup entry.  Fourth.  Perfect.

Let the inspection begin. The inspector brings his own handler, who was amazing with every horse he touched. First the physical overview:

Barbie alone:

The handler removes Murphy’s halter, and takes over, starting at the walk. Love how he and Murphy are in perfect stride. Once the inspector nods…

The trot begins. It was clear the handler very much wanted the horses to present at their best. Here he’s checking to see that Murphy is sticking with, and the pace is good.

Then comes the bigger trot, look at that suspension! I’ve never seen a handler with so much air time! (The horses impressed the inspector too).

Next comes free movement: Barbie will be unclipped and the two encouraged to canter and trot freely:

Below is the only canter (ish) picture we have: Murphy thinking about it, Barbie starting to canter. There’s a reason we only have one bad photo.

When set free, they canter: beautiful, uphill, lovely to look at. Until…Barbie realizes Auntie Jane is in her show arena. Therefore the show must be over. And Auntie must have treats!

The two of them galloped straight for the cluster of photographers (middle of arena), who dove, scattered and gasped, while trying to shoo them out.

BEE. LINE. I knew she would stop if I held up my hand, but it would also show the real issue. So I shooed her also. Confused, they barreled past. Wheeled, came back.

The photographer next to me said: “This is SO STRANGE, usually the ground poles and hay bales keep them out on the rail.”

Totally did not foresee this.  We shooed and ducked.  At least four times.

Finally, the inspector waved and the handler called out “Whoa”. Barbie did an instant sliding stop that would have done Hudson proud, impressing the inspector and handler with her good manners. When no one asked anything else of her, she started ambling toward me again.

AUNTEEEeeeeeeeee……treeeeeats…..

Daisy shot into the arena to catch Barbie. We wanted the inspector to think she was high-spirited and bold, not hitting the photographer up for a cookie.

Murphy decides this is a perfect time to try for a snack, while Barbie is restrained.

AND…???????

Barbie: Premium mare, brood mare Book One!

Murphy: Premium Silver! Their passports (seriously) will arrive in the mail. Here’s Murphy’s plaque! He’s official.


Shhh, Don’t Scare the Cows…

I have a new riding plan.  It’s unorthodox, but it’s working.

I’ve watched lots of dressage videos, imprinting my memory, to emulate the good riding later.  Sort of a visual aid to my brain: see this footage?  Do that, K?

I know this works for many riders.

Frustrating. It doesn’t work for me.  I went back to concepts that I understand in my body.

  1. Whatever I am physically holding, the horse can’t use.
  2. Look for the places I brace my body.  Those will be the areas the horse can’t relax in, since I’m bracing against him.

Holding:

it’s not always bad. Quiet holding with my body can be a powerful tool to keep a line straight or block a ribcage from drifting.  The concept also helps me stop unconscious holding: letting the horse have room to move forward within the outline, and not stop impulsion.

Bracing:

Oy.  Is there anywhere I don’t brace, at some point? (Gumby bracing.  Bend one part and another part stiffens!)  I discovered I brace my wrists (?!?!?), creating a counter brace in Hudson, making it very difficult for him to be soft.  He can be super light, but not soft. How do you soften wrists?  I’m still working on that one.

During the last few weeks, I’ve watched the video of Kathy cutting steers on Rhodie many times. She has something I want, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Stillness? Quiet? Relaxation? Yes, but the way she is doing it is different from what I do.

The next time I got on Hudson, I went through my checklist (it’s Hudson, there’s a little give and take):

Jane: Hmmm….what am I holding? [mentally going through body parts]

Hudson: Jane? I believe you are holding the reins.  Feel free to drop them.

He’s a humorous guy.

Jane: tension in body…where am I bracing myself? Good grief.  Who braces their ankles?!? I will my ankles to stop “bracing” against the stirrups.

Hudson: Don’t care if you brace.  Hellloooo, I’ll just brace back. Win-win. Can we GO already?

I picture Kathy on Rhodie: that quality of internal and external stillness  you need when approaching high flight animals. Why not try?  

Jane: Still.  Completly relaxed. I am one with my horse…I am one with the herd. Ohm.

Hudson: CATTLE?!? WHERE???? I’m on it.  Point me.

His head flew into the air, his ears swiveled wildly, and he became absolutely and totally silent.  He saw the cows in my head, he knew. My body was saying “get ready for cows”, and he was ready.

His reaction was the best possible positive feedback. I did it. I’m quiet enough for cows!

I warmed us up on the access road as if we were moving through a large herd of invisible steers.  He’d begin to amp up (seeing my imaginary cows) and I’d say, with my body “Shhh…don’t scare the cows.” He was instantly quiet. Our connection was electric, solid. For the first time, in his mind, we were partners. I finally hit teammate status with Hudson!

The change is profound.

In order to broadcast “safe”, I have to stay  emotionally and physically contained
in a way that is new for me on the back of a horse. It’s impossible to broadcast “unthreatening” if I’m not self-contained, relaxed, focused, and quiet.

When we went into other gaits, I imagined going through a herd of steers at the trot or canter. Whole new experience. I am GLUED like a pivot to the saddle: a very relaxed pivot. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start. Finally, I can feel the dressage axiom that was too abstract for me to integrate: my seat belongs to the horse.

This is why I appreciate good horsemanship wherever it shows up.  Apparently I’m too concrete of a thinker to apply spoken dressage axioms.

But watching a good cutting team, I suddenly could visualize it in a way that made sense to me.

Give me an imaginary herd of steers, and I get it.  I GET IT! Whahooooooo!!!

(Shhhh…don’t scare the cattle…)

If you try invisible cattle, let me know if it worked for you or not, and how you felt it went!

What unorthodox things have you done to “get” things in  your disciplines?

Country Cars, City Cars, and Washing Horses Is Still Easier

I’ve told Shaun that my car likes dirt.  Like a good hunting dog, it enjoys charging through dust billows, mud puddles, and downpours in the effort to guide me places.

Once there, it likes to loll in the hot sunshine and dry. Baking the mud into the finish. While it draws the line at mice, it doesn’t care if a tiny spider lives behind the side mirror, weaving silvery strands that frame the mirror.

I explain to Shaun: my car enjoys a more…bohemian….lifestyle.  It doesn’t mind what life throws up: flies, manure pile, gravel roads, mud, bird poop, dust. It even tolerates Grand Opening fliers stuck under its wiper at big box stores.

It’s a happy-go-lucky car. It doesn’t complain about drive through car washes, though I know it hates them.

Shaun’s car refuses to unlock if I’m wearing riding boots.  It makes me change my shoes and put my boots in a plastic bag in the trunk. When I shut the trunk, the locks pop up. If I’m carrying a water bottle? It wants to know if I’m taking it with me when I get out.

We find each other annoying.

It would drive through the car wash daily if possible. Our cars have decidedly different expectations of life.

Shaun’s car, in its Happy Place: the parking lot at her office, watching the sun rise over San Francisco Bay;

My car, in its Happy Place, in barn parking, watching turkeys run through the mud:

To me, this situation is cut and dried:

  • Shaun has a city car
  • Jane has a country car

Problem. Shaun believes my country car is really a city car that I refuse to keep up properly.  “Could you just wash it? Occasionally?”, she pleads, pausing. I can see she’s weighing whether she should say more.  Finally, she says, carefully: “The neighbor asked me how it was holding up as an off-road vehicle”.

Okay, I get it. An off-road station wagon? This is not a Shaun/Jane car issue.  It sounds like I’m irritating the neighborhood’s sense of cleanliness.  Poor Shaun.

“I DO drive it through the car wash once a month or so…”, I lie, rather defensively.

“Right”, says Shaun, seeing right through me, and raising the ante. “It’s not getting all the dirt off.  It needs a hand wash.”

I can understand her position: after all, she was the recipient of Neighbor Sarcasm.

Pick one, these are the reasons I tell Shaun I don’t hand wash (FYI: I believe them):

  1. It’s too hard, It hurts my back
  2. I get soaked, I hate that
  3. Bending over gives me a headache
  4. It takes too long
  5. No matter what I do, I get streaks
  6. I’m too old for manual labor
  7. Someone behind me is always fuming, waiting for the wash rack

(Yup, our Homeowners Association built a covered wash rack with a central drain and handy soda machine, so we can more easily keep our cars clean.)

Shaun’s heard all the reasons. “It takes 15 minutes”, she says, “what’s so hard about that?”

“Fine”, I say.  “I’ll drive it through the car wash tomorrow.”

I was thinking about this yesterday while I was slathering soap on my horse. It’s easier to wash your horse, even though:

  1. Cars don’t want to kill you if you wash their headlights
  2. Cars don’t deliberately step on the hose to cut off the water supply
  3. They don’t toss their hoods in the air trying to get out of their windshields being washed
  4. They don’t swing their trunks around to avoid getting their tail lights scrubbed
  5. Once they’re parked, they don’t move: no worry that a 1,000 lb. tire might accidentally stomp on your foot.
  6. They don’t pester you for gasoline the whole time, because a former owner once bribed them with petrol to stand still.
  7. They don’t lash your face with a wet seat belt when you’re bent over trying to decide how white that white wall is, really.

I had a blast. I was soaked. I was happy, and (drumroll)…

…Hudson looked like this for 15 minutes…

Go figure.

It IS easier. The only similarity?

Someone else is always waiting for the wash rack, fuming…

In Which Hudson Saves Jane From a Drive By Shooting, and Jane Wants to Kill Him – Part 2

Jane:

Why TLH was in Radio Silence for four days (sorry);

  1. Hudson is fine.
  2. I’m fine.
  3. We need some backstory. Bear with me?

One of the best things my mother ever told me:

A person’s worst qualities are usually their best qualities, magnified.

She said, “It’ll help you understand people. And forgive them.” Pause. She couldn’t resist adding: “And Jane? It’ll help you figure out your own annoying qualities.”

Thanks, Mom.

(i.e.   You might appreciate a person’s expression of gratitude for showing her how to use a button on her cell phone, but want to strangle her the next day when you receive your third thank you call, thank you text, and thank you note shoved through the mail slot.  It might make you wonder: “Geeze, is THIS what she expects ME to do if I ask her to move a blanket for me when my arms are full??” FYI: No. Wouldn’t even cross my mind.)

Drive-by Day was one of Hudson’s best qualities magnified.

Continue reading “In Which Hudson Saves Jane From a Drive By Shooting, and Jane Wants to Kill Him – Part 2”