Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Let the Holidays Begin...I'm ready...not

So about two weeks ago whilst I was listening to the I-Tunes DJ serenade me on my computer, I began the holiday shopping for the grand children.  Yes I know...I'm far too young to have g.children but they're here anyway and are of an age to demand tithing at Christmas.  To prepare the mood I listened to the favorite old tis the season standards.  I began with "Money", Pink Floyd,  "Whoop De Do", Mark Knopfler, "The Chanukah Song", Adam Sandler, "Angels from the Realms of Glory", The Choir of Tewkesbury, and of course, "I'm Gettin Nuttin For Christmas", Stan Freberg.  Once the songs were indelibly burned in my brain, I was sufficiently motivated to get to the nuts and bolts of gift giving.

I have five adorable (what else?) grandchildren.  Four are boys and one is a girl.  Ladies first. 

It seems Little Mila Bird wants, and will get, the Breyer Classic 3 Horse Stable in pink.  It comes with a jump too. (two panel vertical if you must know) And because you can't and shouldn't have an empty stable it will house the (sold separately) classic sized TB Mare and Foal.  I was briefly entertained by the classic sized Pink Ribbon Horse, but on further examination, it looked like it had had it's epidermis (skin) shaved off and was left with the all the capillaries and veins etc. showing.  Not what you would have wanted.  I know, I KNOW it is a breast cancer awareness model horse, BUT why is it so obviously a stallion then?  I may be missing something, but there you go.  Mila's gift...check.

The children's mother assures me that Jack wants the Kid Kraft Huggable Hank.  She has even gone as far as to rehearse Jack to recite..."YaYa, I want the Hank Horse."  Two things here, YaYa is an adorable grandmother name and Jack can have anything he wants.  Full stop.  So back to Huggable Hank.  This is a large plush horse which comes with a saddle and bridle.  He sports either two white front legs, or two front legs with white polo wraps, hard to tell, but I guess your imagination must come in to play here.  Oh, just FYI, he has hind legs too.  Hank is lying down so you can lie on him.  I never did figure out lay, lie etc.  Prone is a better word, so use that instead.  Jack's gift...check

Little Silas was going to be thrilled with the organically wrapped, recycled cardboard box filled with old paper that came from sustainably grown trees.  Little Silas is one year and three months old.  He would have loved it.  You know eating books and all that.  But it seems one year olds have more material needs than I gave them credit for.  So instead, he will receive the earth friendly, organic and ecologically sustained wooden blocks with which he will pelt his siblings.  What happens to the gifts after they are given is not my responsibility.  Silas's gift...check.

I have two grandsons aged 12 and 14.  Now what?  Can you say gift cards?  Actually I have been informed that gift cards are bad to give cause they get lost, or all the dinero on them doesn't get used, and then the greedy corporate wolves benefit from the leftover cash because nothing ever comes out even.  You didn't really think they offered gift cards for convenience did you? Ho Ho Ho.

I actually know what teen aged boys want.  It isn't what  I wanted...a horse, a saddle and a bridle, if you've been a faithful reader you know that.  But the boys want guns and girlfriends, I'm morally opposed to those things, thanks to a sheltered upbringing.  (God I'm funny)  So to alleve the angst associated with a tremendously hideous choice of gift, I have decided to give them the gift of music.  They get to pick out the perfect sounds and I avoid all the moral opposition to inappropriate content and what not.  Drew and Garrett's gifts...check.

I have a step daughter.  Happily her gift is in the purview of the paternal parent, so I am off the hook, in more ways than one, but I'm sure she will enjoy her 800th Amazon Gift Card.  Gray's gift...check.

My own children, the lovely and gracious Alison, Lindsey and Megan are next.  Remember when I said I would love to go en famille to the "paint your own pottery" place, and spend the afternoon in creative bliss with the darlings?  If you're not a faithful Squidgy reader...too bad, it was in another post.  Any way once again I am disappointed because THAT ain't happening.  Naturally I am not bitter nor am I holding a grudge, but rest assured I am keeping score...So what to give them?  I usually manage to eke out something suitable, but they have been known to read this when forced, so I really shouldn't spoil the surprise.  Ho Ho Ho.  Somebody(s) had best remember to return calls emails and texts.  Currently only one of three is off the hook, and will be receiving something fabulous.  The other two?  Well let me just say, exactly how long HAVE you known your mother.  And have you forgotten what I'm capable of?  That's what I thought.  My inbox and message centers will be full in just moments.  And I am content.  Alison, Megan and Lindsey's gifts...check.

On to the spouse.  So many options here, but again, he can read and has been known to peruse Squidgy if only to pepper me with suggestions to correct tense, spelling and to point out typos.  So perhaps a nice book of grammar, and a volume of Emily Post for him?  And a 5# box of assorted chocolates (no nuts thank you) for me, he's diabetic and I'm evil.   Oh alright, tis the season for giving and to forgive (man that's a painful concept)  so I will find you something, spouse, that hopefully lets you know how much I love you, even if I have to make it.  Steve's gifts...check.

I also have three son-in-laws.  Numbers 1,2 and 3 curently in no particular order because lately they've been much nicer than usual to me and I'm feeling happy and magnanimous.  And charitable.  These guys are really hard to shop for. So let's review fantasy lists for them shall we?

Tim H., something loud and expensive that fits on a car or boat.  Perfect growing weather and good crop prices.  That ought to do it.  Tim H.'s gifts...check.

Tim B., custom saddle, 5000 acres and a fine pad, LQ horse trailer.  Tim B's gifts...check.

Josh K., whom you met in episode 1 - who would read this?,  I Pad, World Peace and College tuition paid for three children.  Josh's gifts...check.

Somewhere down the line I will find the proper gifts for giving to the guys.  Happily we won't do Christmas until the next paycheck, so I have time to ponder and purchase at my leisure.

I hope you are deserving for all you get.  May your new year be prosperous and happy.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Gobble Gobble

Did you enjoy Black Friday?

We had a traditional family Thanksgiving with the fried turkey, baked squash, canned cranberry, whipped potatoes, gravy and stuffing.  Then we enjoyed the old standby, chocolate fondue for dessert.  We were going to have an all fondue supper, but that will have to wait for another time.  Something about little children, hot oil in pots and dangling cords.  Nothing like 10-12 people double dipping to start the season off correctly with the transfer of gross germs and what not.

I like this season.  I like it for many reasons, I like seeing people, I like watching the lights and trees go up. I like the parties, the cards (so rare anymore) and the general feeling of good will.

I hate the shopping and the commerce side of it.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for the extravagant presents, like the new car with the giant bow, or the fabulous month long trip to where ever it is that I want to go and such like.  I hate the rushing feeling that if I'm not up at 3 a.m. to shop for the best deal I've missed out.  That I have no business being asleep at midnight when the stores have stayed open "for my convenience".  As if. 

I suggested we make our presents this year.  Well, talk about your blank stares and the who farted in church looks.  You know what would make me happy?  High tea with just the girls at the St Francis.  I want to spend the day baking cookies with the children and maybe make a gingerbread house.  I want to go to the "paint your own pottery" place and spend the afternoon with my darling children.  One of the best presents I ever got was a butter dish and cover from Megan that she painted and fired for me.  I love it to this day.  I love the paintings that Lindsey did of the sisters and me which hangs in my office and the big floral with the scary stalker guy hiding in the background which hangs in the hall.  I love the photographs  Alison has given me.  Those things are priceless. 

I also love the things we've done for Christmas as a family, the Nutcracker, Cirque de Soleil, crazy dinners at home. A thing will last a certain  amount of time, but a memory is there, for good or for bad, forever.  And even the bad memories have a tendency to mellow with time.  But a thing has to be sent to Goodwill.

I'm not particularly religious, but I think I could take some time every year to be happy to have a family and friends.  That I live in a house, that I can eat everyday, I have a car and go where I want (mostly).  That I am healthy and the ones I love are healthy.  I am happy my children have loves and that they love me.  I am also happy that I have the opportunity to go all the places I go, and that I have met some really fantastic people.  I am greatful for my spouse, with all your warts (and mine) you have been there for me when it counted.

I am not grateful for the dogs though.  They destroyed the garbage last night and to add insult to injury they tore apart the used coffee filters with the used coffee inside and smeared them all over the white carpet.  Not feeling the love.  Be assured they will wear the festive and over the top Christmas collars all season.  As they will then be sulking under the bed en masse they will have no opportunity to knock down the tree or open the presents under same.

Happy Holidays!


Monday, November 15, 2010

It's windy today

Actually, it's been windy for the last five days.  It is during windy weather that I don't miss riding. 

Let's discuss grooming.  If you are a boy, disregard this post as you won't have the first idea what it means to groom. If you are gay though, read on. 

Take one beast, roughly 1000+ pounds, hairy, dirty with a brain the size of a walnut.  We'll assume you are poor and have to groom your own horse.  Bring the  horse to the specially set aside grooming area which will have all the mod-coms such as electricity, water, sparkling clean brushes and combs, step stools, clippers, manure buckets, manure shovels and on and on and on to make the cleaning process pleasant. 

Step One.  Assess Fluffy for injuries with a critical eye. Awkwardly bent legs, blood and refusal to get up are all good indications something is not right.  Call the vet.  

Step Two.  Clean hooves.  This means you take a hoof pick and pry all the detritus Fluffy has stepped on/in out of the bottom of her hoof.  Mostly poop, but if you're in a hurry, then there will be mud of  the consistency of cement which will need be removed.  It is against the law not to remove all the detritus.  Just trust me on this.  Note if all the shoes are on Fluffy if she wears them, if not carry on.  If shoes are missing, half off, tweaked etc. call the shoer.

Step Three.  Curry Fluffy.  Some horses love this, others...not so much.  Learn which curry method will keep you alive.  Use a curry brush or comb depending on where ya'll r frum.  A Curry Brush is an oval shaped rubber hand held device with a handle on one side that fits over your hand.  The bottom side has ridges set in concentric ovals around the interior.  The ridges can either be saw toothed like sharks teeth or have kind round knobs.  You guess which one I prefer.  The idea behind currying is to loosen ground in dirt and other unspeakable items from the horses coat and hopefully bring to the top where with a practiced hand you just "whisk" it away the with a body brush which is held in your other hand.   The curry motion is a counter clock-wise moderate, not hard, pseudo-circular motion on the horses hide.  It is followed by a swipe of the body brush to pfft the dirt away.  So it's a little like making circle, circle, circle, then whoosh, cross the Tee.  Proceed from neck to tail, avoid sensitive areas.  On some horses the entire body is sensitive.  Take care to avoid swishing tails and flailing hooves and teeth.  Should a mishap occur, put Fluffy away, feed, blanket and pat, then call the doctor.

Step Four.  Use a non-invasive method to clean off the legs.  A rubber hand mitt with little knobs all over it can be employed to sluice the grime off followed by a nice soft brush.  But understand that you will need something more akin to a wire BBQ brush to remove mud and hair balls if the legs are hairy.  These devices are not allowed however, and you must employ muscle and time to restore Fluffy's legs to clean. FYI, in dirty hair on legs, especially around the lower limb and behind the pastern is also where lots of nasty bugs live.  The bugs cause infections which give you another opportunity to support your vet.  Call him/her.

Step Four.  Take a damp, not wet, cloth and swipe the coat one more time to pick up the rest of the filth.  With any luck you will have removed enough dirt, dead skin and other nasties from steps two and three that you do not create mud.  The goal is to have a nice clean horse.
Step Five.  Manes and Tails.  Let us hope you have the mane pulled.  This means several hairs at a time have been systematically removed using a pulling comb and tranquilizers until the mane is short, about something of a reasonable length in case you ever have to braid it.  It should also be of uniform thickness down the length which I can tell you right here and now is a trick in itself.  So anyway, then you brush the mane against the way it wants to lay, then comb it down.  If it is unruly, use a wet brush to encourage it to lay down.  This never works, but do it anyway.  The same is true for training the mane to lay down by braiding it.  It will look good for a minute, then go back to the way it was.  It's just the way of it.  But you have to try anyway.   Tails should be treated like gold.  That is to say you don't treat it like your own hair.  No, you must separate each strand from its neighbor with your fingers till all the hairs are independent of each other.  Then you spray stuff in it which is really some kind of silicone that makes it slippery and discourages tangles.  If you comb the tail with a comb or plastic brush I think the police come, or at the very least you will get yelled by some busy body who will lecture you ad-nauseum on the evils of messing with the tail...Just save yourself the agony of that particular exercise.  Really.

So now about five hours have passed, you haven't ridden and your allotted barn time is pretty much used up.  Nevertheless you must persevere and get on with it.

Tacking up.

If you have been religiously reading these posts, then you have read about tacking up before cross country during an event.  If not, then here goes.

Place a sparkling clean saddle pad on Fluffy's back smoothing it to make it lie flat.  Depending on your saddle fit, you will need any number of pads of varying thickness to make the saddle fit to the horses back.  Entire industries are devoted to saddle pads, baby pads, half pads, therapeutic pads, cell pads, gel pads, felt pads, wool pads, synthetic pads, countoured pads, shaped pads, dressage pads and so on.  It's really just best to buy at least one of everything and have them lying around in case you need a place for the barn cat to sleep and have kittens.  At any rate let us assume you have the combinations of pads narrowed down to a science for your particular saddle on this particular horse and this particular moment in the fitness of your steed and can now proceed to placing the saddle on top of the pads and spend a lot of time shifting it around till you are satisfied.  Then you can find your girth and buckle it to the "off side" billets on your saddle.  Then you should shift the saddle around some more and go around to the "near side" and buckle the girth to that side as well.  If you have martingales and breast collars/plates to use,  now is the time to sort that mess out.  There will be all the requisite fiddling associated with each of these contraptions too.   It is considered polite not to tighten the girth at this juncture to snug proportions.  You should go over to the "off side" once more and tighten the girth another hole and back around to the near side to tighten it as well.  Repeat as necessary. 

Some people have the luxury of having working bridles and show bridles.  Bully for you.  The rest of us are lucky to have a whole bridle of matching parts.  Whatever your situation, now is the time to maneuver the bridle on to the horse head simultaneously managing to get the bit in the mouth, over the tongue if possible, up over the ears and buckle in place.  For simplicity sake let's just pretend you only need a simple snaffle bit and a simple cavesson (nose band) and if you have to, a flash nose band too.  Hopefully nothing falls apart during this process and you don't lose the keepers that hold the straps in place, or you have employed a judicious use of braiding bands to substitute for them.  You should try to straighten the brow, nose and flash bands to a degree of level.  Then you should inspect your reins.  I shouldn't have to tell you that if your reins break bad things will happen.  For that matter you should have inspected the billets on your saddle and the trappings on your girth for weaknesses as well.  If you have a running martingale to contend with you will need to unbuckle your reins and slip them through the metal rings on your martingale and rebuckle the reins.  With any luck you will only have to do this once because you have mastered the martingale art but don't count on it.

It should be about dark now so have a nice ride.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some old stuff I wrote a long time ago.

This is part of the blog I wrote during my last adventure as Young Rider Coordinator.  We took a bunch of kids from California, added in some from the East Coast and made teams to compete at the North American Young Rider/Junior Championships.  They were held at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia that year.  I begin with my own tremendous acheivments.

August or July 2007 - probably in the middle of the night.

Then there is the stuff I have done.  I began the hotel room quest in December, 2006.  I really wanted a hotel with an in-house restaurant.  Well anyway, I was successful in getting 10 rooms at the hotel I wanted, and did my due diligence in contacting the hotel throughout the spring and became acquainted on a regular basis with all three new sales managers, that is to say that over the seven months I’ve been calling and checking my reservations, each time a “new” sales manager had been hired.  Why wasn’t I afraid then?  Well as the saying goes you can’t teach old people anything.  I certainly qualify in all those regards.  But I digress.  Each time I talked to a new sales manager i.e.:   #1 – Carol and #2 Carmen – not the head of housekeeping Carmen, the other one and was assured my reservation was intact and all was fine and did I send in my contract, well no, because I didn’t have a contract, fine, they would send me one.  End of thought - until finally…#3 Sue whom I had my first contact with after I had promptly, nay early in fact, faxed in the room list one day  earlier than the requested two weeks prior to arrival due date.  Whew.  So Sue calls me, “we’ve cancelled all 10 of your rooms because we don’t have a signed contract.”  Sweet.  So I begin a rant that was tactful yet insistent, nasty yet polite, bratty yet saccharine – you get the idea.  I used phrases like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a contract, I do have three names of three different people, not counting Carmen the head housekeeper whom I’ve also spoken to, and the dates and synopsis of the conversations we had”  and (this is a good one)  “Ya’ll (you want to get chummy) have in all ways been so courteous  perhaps I missed your phone call asking me about my intention with regard to my 10 room reservation?  It seems to me that I would have remembered such a call.  No? then I am truly puzzled” And finally, the coup d’gras “what will I tell the children?”  Clincher city.  Problem solved – 10 points for the good guy with a notebook.  By the by, the “contract” they kept referring to was in fact a letter which outlined the specifics of my reservation i.e.: the number of rooms, the date the reservation was taken, who I spoke to, on that day,  the date the room list would be required etal.  I must have sent that to them a hundred times without ever realizing the line that said signature was in fact asking for my signature…not the hotel sales manager du jour.  Whatever

It is my fervent hope that the hotel travesty will be the high drama of this year’s journey.  However, we do still have one more jog outfit to purchase.  After last year’s debacle at the mall, I’m opting for online shopping.  We still have a week before any of us actually sets foot on Blue Ridge soil, so perhaps we can gitter dun electronically and I can airily wave my hands around and utter such profundities such as “no darlin’ it does not make you look fat”, “yes, your butt does look big in the stretch mini” (AS IF),  “glitter is not an option”, and “you can not jog in a tube top unless your horse happens to be missing a limb.”  Enuff sed.  I’m warming up my southern-ness.

The adventure begins in earnest on Friday morning July 27 at the break of my dawn with a 6:15 a.m. departure from San Francisco to Roanoke via Atlanta.  Traveling with me will be Max Mc Manamy, Tara Polkabla, Meredith Ragno, JH Leahle and Jordan Kendrick, Tara’s b-friend. 

By the by, is it interesting that two years ago as we were getting ready to leave for Young Riders,  Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince came out, and now two years almost to the day, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is JUST out?  Maybe not interesting at all, but I know what I’ll be reading.

The trip is really about the adventure, but the adventure belongs to the riders and grooms.   Our grooms are pretty varied, Fiona Graham hails from Portola Valley in CA and was a contender for this year’s ** team, but her horse opted for a different path, and Fiona decided to come with the team in a different capacity.  Rachel Dwyer too, was candidate for the ** team, but found her counting skills to be questionable when she missed a fence at her qualifier and found herself eliminated, but  she too stepped up to the plate to help out her team.  Our third groom, Janelle Riddle  was a member of the ** star team two years ago and says she wants to “give back” to the program.  As you can see, these guys are what being a team member is all about.   Anyway, we have two teams of riders this year, both with three members.  The CCI* Junior team consists of Maxance Lavance McManamy (Max) and her horse 10 year old TB Beacon Hill (Taylor), Tara McKenna Polkabla (Tara) and Current Leader  (Katana) also a 10 year old TB and Meredith McIntyre Ragno and her  7 year old Dutch Wmbld. Sentenial K (Henley).  The CCI** Young Rider team includes Jennifer Ann Brannigan (Jennie) with 10 Year old Kozmo another TB, Olivia Katherine Loiacono (Liv) and her 11 year old chestnut TB Subway and our third member is Brett Elise Handy (Brett) with her 11 year old Irish horse Promising Sportsfield (Jack).  Brett is from Area X, New Mexico to be exact.  We are delighted that she has opted to throw her lot in with us’ns from the far west, and we promise to behave.  (snort)

July 28, 2007
As is typical it is after 9 p.m. and we are just now getting our act together enough to go eat dinner.  How many actually make it to this food fest is unknown.  But I will l describe the meal in excruciating detail.  As usual our little friend Jordan  (see above – Tara’s b-friend), was s.t.a.r.v.i.n.g.  this guy is a bottomless pit.  Cliché I know, but words defy me.  Starving at the airport yesterday morning, starving on the plane at the first snack thing, starving at p-nut time, starving in Atlanta, starving at dinner 3 hours later, starving this morning, at mid-morning, at lunch, at late afternoon and at dinner.  Wow, yes, he weighs 140 soaking wet and he’s 6’ tall.  This will be annoying.  I hope he has enough money to last the week.  I know I don’t have enough money to feed him for even one day…

Anyway, the rest of the girls, I have Tara, Max and Meredith , eat normally.  I don’t have any weirdos with me this year.  Max doesn’t eat fish, pineapple or OJ, Meredith hates hates hates broccoli and raw onions and Tara doesn’t like fish or tomatoes.  Jordan likes everything.  We also have a 6th person with us.  May I introduce JH Leahle?  He was a business partner of Max’s dad.   He evidently has nothing better to do than hang out in VA with us and drive us around and be the best bud guy these girls have ever had.  I’m a fan.  Pictures to follow.  The meals in any case have been very staid and no drama, but it is only day 2.

What we did this summer…Today in addition to fetching feed and some supplies we also went shopping – cute boutiques here, then we went on our history lesson tour and visited the homes of General “Stonewall” Jackson and the Sloan house right here in Lexington, then we toured the chapel at Washington and Lee University.  Meredith is our little history buff and won a book at the Sloan House by knowing all the answers to all the questions.  I think she was offered a job, but I’m not sure.  Very entertaining.  But you will have to Google them yourself, cause there was a ton of information and you don’t have enough time for me to tell you all of it.

Tomorrow (Sunday) Katana, Taylor and Henley will fly in.  They are horses.  Two of the intrepid mothers are flying with the horses on a flight from Ontario in So. Cal to Roanoke, then the horses are being vanned to Lexington, well Natural Bridge, VA where they will stay overnight till we can get to our stalls at the VA Horse Center on Monday.  Olivia will be driving down from New Jersey tomorrow so we will have a CCI** rider in our midst as well.  Jennie and Brett get here on Monday and our rider contingent will be complete.

I have decreed a sleep in, sleep late tomorrow, not sure what that will mean to different people, but whatever.  JH was moaning that he had to go running and he makes Max go too, a little about the heat and humidity later…The rest of us will more than likely lounge around and get our heart rates up by osmosis or caffeine.  To each his/her own.

OMG I forgot to tell you about the team penning.  There is an AQHA show going on at the Horse Center right this minute.  So we ambled and mosied on over thar (western cowboy lingo for ya’ll) late this afternoon to enjoy that spectacle.  I gotta tell you, this is a pretty cheap lesson in the ways of the world that I get to experience with my little darlings.  So a little about team penning.  Imagine a regular  sized ring with pipe panels in the middle making a smaller, but not very small inner ring.  Then there is a little pen down at one end with 3 and ¾’s sides and an open gate like affair and another pen with gates that hold the herd at the other end.  So what happens is they bring in a bunch of veal, I mean calves to the pen with the gate, and they all have paper numbers attached in some fashion – I’m not sure how, not sure I really want to know.  So three calves each have the same number, so there are 3 number 1’s, 3 number 2’s and so on and so forth and they all try to hide or whatever in the open.  Then five riders come in on their wonderful little horses, 2 on each side and three in the middle, now the three in the middle would be your “team”  and evidently the other two are just there for fun, cause the announcer announces what number calf the team will be “penning” then the 2 guys jam it out of the ring like they’ve been scalded and the 3 that are left muddle around with the calves and try to sort the calves with their allotted number out of the mix and down to the end with the 3 & ¾ pen with the open gate deal without letting any of the other numbered calves out as well.  Then some timing thing is announced and if you don’t have your three calves out you are basically a loser, cause the really good guys got all their calves picked out and then you have to make them go into the little pen, but that seemed like easy, cause pretty much nobody had trouble if they were able to train their calves to go down and sit stay at that end of the arena without calling all their brothers down to join them.  Having the brothers join them means you get a big fat “NO TIME”  which means you l.o.s.e.  Calves are very naughty and have their own idea how this game is played which pretty much involves stymy the horse and rider duo.  Very entertaining.  I could do this.

I loved being the young rider coordinator.  I loved the dedication of the riders to their team, their horse and their sport.  I liked organizing trips like this, finding lodging, arranging transportation for 20 people from 20 different airports, and finding transportation for the horses and 16 tons of equipment to travel across the country.   I liked the part of eating new foods with teenagers.  It was always  an adventure driving around without benefit of competent map readers or GPS.  I still see the little darlings who made the teams, or groomed for Area VI.  At last count, at least two of those riders have competed over the pond in Europe or England on grants earned from being good riders on good horses. 

So this is  a cheap way to post a blog entry.  I did that in college too.  I wrote a paper for a Sociology class and used the same one for an English Comp class as well.  Evidently you aren't supposed to do that.  Oh well, they were my ideas put from pen to paper, and if you want my degree back you can have it.  It is just something I have to refile every now and again anyway.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What now Mary Ann?

I think the title above was the name of a song, but I don't know for sure, and I certainly don't remember any other lyrics.  The phrase is meant to jump start my mind for fodder for another episode in the wildly popular "Squidgy" series.
...time passes...more time etc.

So the spouse and I took our little selves off to Fresno, CA  last Thursday night so we could enjoy three plus hours in the single cab of a Toyota Tacoma with three dogs.  There are few things in life other than that experience you should not miss.  We got to the motel in good order.  Placed leashes on all three demons and got out of the truck only to realize that only two of the malcontents were actually attached to a human, or such facsimile of same.  It couldn't be the blind dog, oh no, it had to be the little Brat Russell terrier, often know as the spawn of Satan.  So off she ran, with a 6' leash turning every so often to look back, give her version of the one finger salute, and take off again.   Did I mention it was midnight, in Fresno, and the beast was black?  Such a good time we had playing chase with her.  Down through the Barrio, and alley's, and sketchy streets Steve and I and our attached canine companions Emma and Blind Melon Carlos  raced, calling for our youngest child and encouraging help from the 'hood.  One happy man asked if he could help us.  I engaged him in polite conversation while 6'8" Steve vanished to another part of town.  When the  good Samaritan appeared, all  300 plus #'s and of good height with his pet, a pit bull cross, I squeaked that if he found the miscreant a phone number was on her collar and would he contact me.   Then I too vanished, rather more quickly than the spouse.  I'll come quickly to a close now, as I know you are breathless and near expiration from anxiety.  We returned to the motel parking lot and the creature sat there in the middle of the parking lot, covered in some indescribable filth, waiting for us like what up?  I couldn't even look at her.  Steve was weeping with joy, and I had to pee. 

Happily the rest of the weekend was relatively tame by comparison.  Steve designed his show jumping course in his weird short hand and then began to throw jump poles willy nilly all over the ring.  He bribed me to be his intermediary between the jump crew and his bad self.  You know I think what really happens is he gets me to ask the guys to put a standard next to each pole, two on a vertical, four on an oxer, six on a triple bar and some random number on a Swedish oxer.  When I have to ask them to change some standards around so the oxers match or something, they whine to Steve, who tells them not to listen the woman, she doesn't know what she's talking about.  I usually react pretty calmly about then and retire to the haven of some friend down in the barns who has alcohol.  Usually alcohol and red meat will cure me.  Not always.  Depending on the quality of the dinner we have the night of the insult I may or may not be of any help the next day.  This next day I was pretty much useless, except for the witty repartee' with my homies.

I have nearly 300 friends on FaceBook.  I hope they are all reading this, but like it is in so many embarrassing situations, they mostly are keeping their collective heads down and avoiding eye contact.  I'm also not sure I know all the almost 300 people, but it looks good anyway.  I have friends who have 1000+ friends - how is that even possible unless you do concerts or something?  FaceBook is an interesting phenomena.  I have contemporaries who evidently read 1984, and are convinced that FB is "Big Brother".  I don't care.  If they are interested in what I'm doing they are more desperate than I.  In any case I have reconnected with a LOT of friends from my wicked past, including two boy friends from high school, girlfriends from the era of marriage #1, and of course a lot of horse friends.  I mostly lurk and stalk, spooky, but I like it.  I'm practicing for when I can't get around on my own steam.  If any of you went to Dededo Jr. High, or Wettengel on Guam, don't you think FaceBook is a little like the Slam Books we had in Jr. High?  If any of you reading this went to either school in the mid-60's, or know someone who did, I want to hear from you.  Liz, this means you.

My peppermint mocha is kicking in and making me jumpy so I'll sign off now.  Peace.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eventing is different

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.

I have had some feedback on my  blog submissions.  I understand that my humor may not suit all, but that's where that business of "freedom of speech" comes in.  Happily, all the comments, with one exception from someone who admitted that only part of the blog had been read, were positive.  I like doing this so maybe I'll continue for the foreseeable future.  Lucky you.

I want to elaborate on the differences in training of horse and rider in the Hunter Jumper world and the Eventing world.  This is from my perspective of course.  In the simplest of sense, riders come in three formats.  1.)  The amateur who works in an industry other than horses to support their equestrian "fix".  2.)  The professional who feeds upon, that is to say, earns their "fix" money by teaching amateurs and, in the case of a big shot, who will also to instruct other professionals.  There is quite a hierarchy of who's who in professionals, but this may be better left alone.  I may need lessons again some day.  3.)  The third member is the lucky one who has funds from a) previous hard work and a justified retirement; b) a satisfactory marriage or divorce; or the very best c) the individual who managed to choose parents/family carefully.  For they will have managed all their lovely money wisely which allows the, um shall we say, trustee to enjoy life without that tiresome employment business getting in the way of life.  In the case of your type "A"  personality these individuals may be a conglomerate of any or all of the above riders.  Type "A"'s are usually good at what they do, but may not be that much fun at a party.

Let's talk a little about how eventing is different from shall we say hunter jumpers aka H/J.  At a  H/J show
your trainer may ride your horse in a few classes to settle the beast in to the new surroundings, because God only knows Fluffy has not seen the outside of the ring at home in like forever.  If you have a really good horse your trainer will always ride your horse, you will not, and you will be charged an extra training fee for the opportunity to have your horse shown by the professional, and ridden at home by anyone but you.  It's a confusing concept, but it does happen. 

Eventing is different.  You have to ride your horse in all three phases.  Yeah, you, personally.  I had a Jumper trainer a long time ago who showed up at an event to help me.  He was carrying his chaps and boots fully prepared to ride the horse in the "warm ups", and was horrified to learn that I would be doing all the riding and could only take help from him verbally.  Fortunately for all involved, the aforementioned horse had had a nervous break down the night before dressage and tore off all her shoes and for some reason we could not find a farrier.  But in any case, I didn't have to perform at all that weekend which was probably a blessing.

In the H/J world it is critical to have a properly turned out stable at a show.  In all likelihood you would never dream of competing at a H/J show without a trainer.  Depending on how much of a big shot your trainer is, there will be many stalls devoted to anything but horse housing.  There will be drapes which cover the outside of the show stables.  This disguises the fact that you have paid a huge amount of money for a 10' x10' stall made of plastic.  Then there will be mahogany tables, chairs and benches.  Brass lanterns will hang from the eaves.  The tack trunks will all be matchy matchy.  Sod, yes sod is purchased and placed around the custom decorated EZ-Up tent.  There will be an assortment of  plants and trees scattered about and some kind of carpet to give the impression you are "at home".  Never mind you are outside, probably in a field somewhere, with a stable full of horse poop and flies, the trainer with the most stuff wins.  People will want to ride with the big shot with the most expensive "stable".  That's just the way it is.  The last time I rode at an "A" rated horse show with a trainer I paid over $600 in entries, and about $1000 for the rest of the doo-dads.  And that didn't even get me there or pay for a place to stay.   It is at this point that perhaps you should glance over and reread the "about me" part that mentions the reversal of fortune bit.

At an event you may see some drapery, but usually not furniture, unless it folds up.  Occasionally you may run in to someone who is there to help, but it is usually a friend or a parent.  They are not paid.  If a training barn has a row of stalls, there may be a tack stall but rarely a grooming stall since there is a barn aisle to block.   A line of matchy matchy tack trunks may be outside each stall but there will always, always be a rogue trunk from another life that breaks up the monotony.

During the H/J show there is additional staff. In addition to the "trainer" there will be a gaggle of groomers, stall cleaners, assistant trainers, gardeners, longers, tack cleaners, psychiatrists and soothsayers.  Each staff member charges each horses owner a daily fee.  They spend all their time with the big shot, but they get a paycheck from someone else.  Interesting concept, but there you go.  I want to think that the groomer and stall cleaner at the last show I attended were paid $50 per day each.  That was for one horse.  That horse stayed for about five days.  You do the math.

At an event you ride your own horse.  You may have the friend or parent help in the stable but more than likely you will tack it up, clean it, put it away, feed it, give it water constantly and clean its stall.  With any luck your trainer will remember all of your ride times and make some kind of attempt to be at your warm ups to encourage you with sensitive comments and compliments galore.  Since you have to do all your own riding at an event, it is considered sporting if you also ride your horse at home.  This will probably involve devoting at least an hour a day in the saddle and requisite time cleaning your horse and hopefully your tack.  Count on two hours a day and all day on weekends.  I'm not sure why. 

At a H/J barn you are invited to visit when it is convenient for the trainer or his or her staff.  When you arrive your horse will be presented to you with all its tack on and shiny stuff on its feet.  You get on and cautiously make your way to the ring where the trainer or assistant will bark at you for 30 minutes.  You will be reminded that you must wear a shirt with sleeves, said shirt should be tucked in and you will wear a belt next time won't you?  Oh and keep your heels down.  You will most likely have a lesson of some sort every time you visit your horse.  After your ride you leave.  Period.  The barn will be closed on Monday.  Don't even think about visiting your horse on Monday.  It's just the way it is.  If the trainer goes to a show he or she will leave the Monday before the show starts on Wednesday.  It takes time to "set up".  The trainer will be gone anywhere from five days to six weeks.  It just depends.  Your horse may  go to the show for mileage.  There are trailering fees, stabling fees, grounds fees and day fees incurred as well as any entry fees for this education/mileage. 

Eventers should try to take a lesson once a week and more than that the week before the event.  You should also memorize your dressage test.  Over the course of the show season  you will ride the same dressage test over and over and over again if you stay at the same level.  But there will be the exception for one competition which is the one you won't have noticed that instead of Dressage Test A, you will be required to negotiate Dressage Test B.    It happens.  Therefore you should read about events you plan to enter in your omnibus* repeatedly and verify-verify-verify the test, the location and the date. 

Let me go on ad-nauseum about entering an event.  In the omnibus* you will locate an event you want to enter.  If you read about the event you will find that the show dates are listed.  The opening and closing dates are posted.  The opening date is about six weeks before the start of the competition and the closing date is about four weeks later.  You are supposed to send your completed entry to the organizer or secretary some time during those four weeks.  Sadly some competitors find those dates to be arbitrary and will ALWAYS send their entries late.  Now think about it for just a teensy tiny moment,  you are being asked to send your entry with your fees to the competition management at least two weeks before the start of the show.  In return, the organizer will have purchased or rented, shavings, hay, stabling and jumps.  They will have paid for someone to come design a the show jumping courses and design a cross country field with up to five different courses on about +/-100 acres.  They will pay to have a water jump filled, galloping tracks plowed and footing prepared.  They will have paid for transportation for all the officials and provided room and board for them.  They will pay for porta-potties, food vendors, tents, tables and chairs.  They may have to pay to use the facility, pay for a use permit and obtain insurance and deal with the governing body of the federation.  Oh,  all this is done before the event starts and it adds up to slightly more than your entry and stabling.  If you look at it from that perspective the $400 you are asked to pay for entry and stabling is small potatoes.  Next time you think you will just enter whenever, think about the financial risk an organizer takes each time they post an event in the omnibus*.  My my that was quite a little soapbox wasn't it?

I hope this clears the differences up between H/J and eventers.  I would explain the differences between dressage and eventing, but it's just too depressing.  Basically, in any horse sport you need money and a lot of it.  Next time you will be a little more careful choosing your parents.



*Omnibus:  This little gem lists all the events sanctioned by the USEA (United States Eventing Association) in the U.S.  The events will be listed by areas I-X.  The levels offered, the dressage tests being used, the length of the cross country, accommodations, directions, who the judges are (usually) and a time table are listed for each event.  Since these are made up by the organizer, there may be some revisions on the actual day, but the Omnibus will also tell you that this is information that was available on the day the publication was printed.  Hopefully if there are any major changes someone would let you know.   Amen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mares Nest: I guess I gotta do show jumping

Mares Nest: I guess I gotta do show jumping: "It seems that these postings are listed from newest to oldest. This being the case, I should have started with this phase of eventing. If ..."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mares Nest: Who would read this?

Mares Nest: Who would read this?: "Ha ha you would. So my son in law (current rank...#1 of 3 but will probably fall in status soon enough) said he read that these guys wer..."

Revisiting Eventing v.2

Aha!  I actually have two followers!  Ok so well, one is me and the other is my daughter.  But now I have a "read" post and I guess in a very abstract way I can say I am "published".  Where's my Pulitzer?

Where did I leave off.  Oh right, I'd sort of finished the dressage overview and now I will succinctly describe the heart of the event, aka the cross country part of the competition.  If you've ever watched the track and field cross country, you are a leg up on what this phase is all about.  In a nutshell you get on a horse, you bolt out of a start box and you gallop out in a field and you jump fixed obstacles then you cross the finish line.  Amen.   Now certainly there is way more to it than that.  Certainly, but if someone were to ask you what equestrian cross country was you could say that and no one could contradict you.  If you have to always be right then you would say that. 

If, however, your interest is piqued read on.  So the day starts early because you either have to be on your steed and warmed up before your assigned "ride" time or you have to feed your horse, clean your stall, stress, yell at people or what ever you need to do.  The ride time is when the organizer has decided you must leave the start box and begin your cross country ride.  You are also assigned ride times for dressage, so you are told what time to be where to perform by some arbitrary method for two out of three phases, but usually you are on your own for the last phase when you are trying to pack up to go home, take off bandages, remove poultice and be in the ring to show jump before the starter has a stroke screeching for you to be "on deck".  But I digress.

Getting ready is a complicated ritual which involves getting dressed in your "lucky" breeches, putting your socks and boots on the "lucky right or lucky left"  foot first, digging through mountains of "I might need this stuff" to find your "lucky" whip and kissing the front of your helmet (I saw Mike Smith, race jockey, do that. At  the time of this writing, Mike Smith had ridden Zenyatta to a 19 out of 19 winning streak so I think it is a ritual everyone should adopt so here it is).  You need to take a couple minutes here to walk around and stress a bit.  If you have barn help, you will go watch other riders on course so you have yet another opportunity to freak out.  Then you have to clean your horse, unless you are a big shot and have someone who does that for you, then you have to put your horses boots on by yourself, because that's what is done.  Then you walk around and stress out a little but more.  Then the saddle pad, saddle, breast plate, running martingale and bridle go on.  Then the bridle comes off because you forgot to change the bit, because you always need a special bit for cross country.  Then you have to take the saddle off and reposition it, because you couldn't possibly have gotten that right the first time.  Then you run to the Porta Potty, because, well you figure it out.  Depending on just exactly how much of a big shot you are you may repeat this last bit several times.  Since smoking has become such a no no, you have to have the Porta Potty run to take up the time when you would have been aggressively chain smoking and being a cow to everyone.  

So then you figure it must be time to get on.  At this point you will either be about three hours early, or your time will have started and you will still be at the barn which is easily a 10 minute hack to the start box.  Once your time comes, they start the clock whether or not you there, and since it is a timed event it is bad if you are not there.  If by some weird set of circumstances you have a working, organized crew who will get you on your way to the warm up before your start time, you will get on your horse and make it say half way to the warm up before you realize you have forgotten your medical arm band* and everyone gets all excited if you forget your medical arm band* so you have to gallop madly back to the barns and begin a frantic search for it, because God only knows you couldn't possibly have put it somewhere where you could find it.  Then you will have to pee...again or whatever. 

Let's just assume from this point you eventually arrive at the warm up area in time to walk, trot and canter around and have a few warm up jumps from the practice fences provided.  Depending on how much of a big shot you are the few warm jumps will range anywhere from three to three hundred.  Much like in the dressage warm up, this is the best place for viewage.  I have very scientifically categorized and rated the turn out in this phase.  I could go on and on about it, but I do believe I will save that for a time when I need to get that bit of snarky off my back. Oh, turn out is the pleasing (or not) look you have assembled for your shirt, hat, breeches, gloves, saddle pad, boots etc. etc. etc. And how clean and shiny your horse is, and how clean your tack is.  Having been to Wal Mart, you  just use your imagination to envision the endless extremes and interpretations of what tasteful is.  Right.

So now you've done your warm up, and depending on who or if someone has helped, you either feel super confident and raring to go , or you are a mass of sobbing jello.  Now someone will bellow that you have one minute till your start time.  Which is your clue to go calmly to the start box where you and your horse will stand quietly while the time counts down.  When they say go you may leave the box and ;you should do so at a canter from which you can build on.  Not that any of that happens, but that's what is written in the books I've read so it must be true.  Anyway what really happens is you get about half way to the start box and your horse will realize that all the horses left in the warm up are it's best friends even though just a few scant minutes ago he hated all the other horses breathing his air and has spent an inordinate amount of time kicking, biting, and striking out at any and all who dare to come near.  And having realized that he has only you for companionship,  he will drop his neck in an amusing kind of wiggle and spin violently and high tail it back to the safety of numbers.  This will go on for some time.  Eventually you will get in the start box, and three, two, one Go! you will be off.

The course.  Depending on whether or not you are a big shot your course will vary by level of technicality and just plain difficulty.  There are several levels in which you can compete.  Common sense and a host of rules and regulations will dictate what level you are doing on this day.  Normally the course designer will have given you a couple "let's get going, confidence building" couple first fences at all levels.  This is also handy if you have begun your course way after the time has started and you don't have the opportunity to warm up as above.  You have a wide variety of fences to negotiate.  Among your options may be any of the following:  coffins, drops, water, ditches, fallen logs, broken bridges, banks up and down but regardless of the kind of fence they will appear h.u.g.e. and i.m.p.o.s.i.n.g and depending on how many of these things you've done really really scary. 

Now to make things even more interesting, you are allowed to walk your course as many times as you want.  You can wring your hands and gnash your teeth and analyze and over analyze and generally work yourself into a proper lather, BUT, you don't get to show your horse any of the boogies out there till you dart out of the box.  Sweet huh?  So off you go. 

The idea is to go exactly as fast as  the optimum time.  At the lower levels this could be anywhere between 300 and 450 meters per minute.  You will probably move along at this pace for four or five minutes, and you will have to allow for jumping which may involve a little preparation before a fence or combination of fences or turning situations and the like.  So you need to have a pretty good idea where you want to be on your "minute markers".  Minute marking is a time consuming, tiresome exercise whereby you walk your course with either a meter wheel or GPS and when you've gone say 350 meters and you're supposed to be traveling on your horse at 350 meter per minute you will make some complicated note as to where you are and know that when your stop watch goes off on the minute you should be at such and such a place.  You will do this for the rest of the track marking and memorizing.  Then you will meet up with all the other people in your division and you will discuss where the minute markers are and there will be a general consensus making your work of the last hour or two redundant.  Of course you must remember to turn the watch on before you leave the box or the whole exercise is for naught. 

If you have a stop, the time continues.  If you fall off you are eliminated.  If your horse falls touching shoulders and hip, even if you stay on , you are eliminated.  If you ask directions or are randomly given directions or suggestions you are eliminated.  If you thought this would be a good time to listen to your Ipod or talk or text on the phone you will be eliminated.  And don't even think about using a two way radio cause, guess what?  elimination.   So it's a good idea not to have any problems.  That way you can gallop around, jump the jumps, negotiate the finish flags and bore everyone spitless with your brilliant, worthy of Olympic coverage, once in a lifetime, foot  perfect round.

Now you will return to the barn and spend the next three to four hours cleaning, icing, walking, icing, wrapping, unwrapping, icing, poulticing, re wrapping and clean some more.  At about midnight you will return to the barn to annoy your horse some more with a evening stroll, a jog to see if there is any evidence of soreness,  and depending are what you think (not a good idea) you will unwrap, check for heat or swelling, stress, re wrap and fret the rest of the night.  If you are a big shot someone does all this barn stuff for you, but you still get to stress and fret. 

In the morning you will arrive at the barn a little bleary eyed from too much celebration/commiseration and too little sleep and repeat the midnight exercise all over again.  But now you will have the opportunity to practice your mind reading skills to ascertain when your show jump ride will happen.  Naturally there is a ton of material for this phase as well, so you'll have to wait for the next gripping episode.

Till then,

*Medical Arm Band.  A little form which is housed in a plastic jacket with six miles of Velcro that does not velk.    You fill the form out with lots of lies like your age and weight.  It will also list your non-existent blood type, your allergies, all your recordable accidents, which, depending on how big a shot you are, will not have enough lines.  It will also list your primary care physician, insurance and a host of personal data that you’d rather no one know about.  It will also ask for your name.  Sticky wicket, you have to wear your own arm band, not someone else's, even though you can’t find yours and you’re late and you have to be at the start right now.  The organizers and the police, I mean Ground Jury get really pissy if you aren’t the same person as is on your arm band.  You try to wear your arm band on your, wait for it, arm.  That’s why it’s called an “armband.”  You have to wear your arm band when entering any jumping phase at an event.