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.