Monday, March 29, 2010

It's late

It's late. I should be in bed... I have an early start in the morning. But I can't bring myself to break the magic that is my living room at the moment.

In one corner, the squirrely orange kitty twirs and darts up and down his cat condo, lost in his own frenzied imagination. His sister crouches under the fish tank, watching the orange kitten antics and waiting for her moment to pounce.

The more civilized elder kitties have taken up their respective posts. Gray nameless kitty is cozied up on the red chair cleaning herself and occasionally glancing up to see what nonsense the young ones are up to. Now she's staring at me and wheezing a little bit (probably from eating too much fuzz earlier today).

On the back of the couch next to my right shoulder, my lovely tuxedoed companion is curled and squeezing his eyes shut. He's pretending he isn't interested in the kitten antics either, but we all know he is paying very close attention. He's been with me the longest of all of the furry critters in this house. He's my sweet Bangs.

To my left lies the best dog you will ever meet... my Tag. He's been crashed out on the couch with his head hanging off the side for about an hour and a half now... Noah went to bed a while ago, but Tag sticks by me. I love this dog. He's so cozy and affectionate. He checks in every now and again, flipping his head up and grunting lazily.

In a moment I'll go to bed, too, and break this magic moment, but here I am surrounded by all my animals... and I am content.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This week at the barn

So, we've been furloughed since Wednesday. That means extra time for me to do the fun things I always hold a grudge against work for keeping me from. I've been busy!

Monday evening is my usual night to ride Watson for practice. So as usual, I went to the barn and Debbie was there teaching a small child a riding lesson (so cute)... and I went to pull out the old boy and tack up... except that Watson was missing his front right shoe. Bummer... that's the third time in 2 months he's pulled off his shoe. Debbie was not pleased. Nor was I as I was likely to lose my ride that evening and I need to maintain a steady schedule if I'm going to work through my nonsense anxiety, etc. Luckily, I didn't have to go home without climbing up... but all W and I got to do was walk around for 40 minutes. At least he got out and stretched.

Yesterday was day 1 of furlough time. I did NOT go to the barn to ride. I stopped by to unblanket some horses for a friend and then Noah, Tag and I headed for the coast. We went to Dillon Beach by Bodega Bay. (Cue lovely photos)

Today, day 2 of furlough, I spent at the barn. I watched W in a lesson with another rider, watched Debbie have a lesson, then came back in the afternoon and rode HoneyBee, an appendix Quarter horse. Debbie needed to work her and her own horse, Diego... so after I warmed up Bee, Debbie let me get on Diego, her gigantic thoroughbred gelding. All I did was sit there on Diego, and concentrate on breathing and not moving my leg AT ALL. Diego took me all around the arena at a walk that leaves Watson in the dust!

Truth be told, I'm a little scared of Diego. He's stepped on me before and it hurt. My toe was purple for a week. And getting on his back didn't make me complacent... he can't step on me from there, but he could break my neck... still... riding him, even so basically, was encouraging. I didn't die, didn't fall off, and didn't go rocketing off into the great beyond. Whee!

Tomorrow we're going to look at a new horse that may be coming to stay with us at WC and be used for lessons. Furlough = More barn time!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Horses, dogs, and sheep oh my!

It's been a jam packed weekend, as usual. I'll start with Saturday...

I rode in a lesson on Saturday without Leslie :*( because she is in LA for spring break this week. Miss you Leslie. Debbie and I talked a lot about elbows and hands... I am having trouble freezing my elbows and not being flexible enough. This is likely because I find myself clenching to try and ward off Watson's head disappearing act (where he throws his head between his knees and trundles off to who knows where... very hard to stop him when this happens). So I went around in circles working on changing my posting diagonal and keeping my elbows FLEXIBLE.

After that we worked on a mini course with some poles and a couple of cross rail jumps. Debbie says I should ride in the cross rail class at the show at the end of May... so the challenge for me now is to see how many obstacles I can make it through before I lose my head (or Watson's). The more obstacles we do the more excited Watson is about them and the more likely he is to act up. And so I clench... and so Debbie yells at me.

Truthfully, Watson isn't going anywhere very quickly... it just feels like he is, like I can't control him... something mental is going on with me and I have to keep working on it to get it out. So the lesson today was a successful one. I learned, have more to practice, and didn't freak out.

I did miss Leslie.

In other news, Tag got to have a go at being a sheep herding dog today. Collies were bred originally to herd sheep in Scotland. They don't all have the instinct however, and so we took Tag to Performance Dogs In Action where he could have the experience in a controlled environment.

It went fairly well, all things considered. I don't think Tag is a motivated herder. He didn't try to KILL the sheep... which is a good thing... and he was mildly interested, but when he was rebuffed by the trainer for chasing the sheep, he quickly lost interest. Not his idea of fun, apparently.

It was well worth the experience, though. Now we know how he will do... maybe down the road he'll change his mind, but for now I'm going to focus on building our relationship in other ways.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A flash of inspiration

I had a wild moment of inspiration last evening and went out and bought a 100 pack of markers... It seems like a lot, but they are pretty distinct shades of color, and it cost relatively little...

Anyhow, this is what I got out of it... it's called Middaydreaming... inspired by the work of my good friend Scotty Voyles... a true artistic master.

Monday, March 15, 2010

One of those Mondays

It's 5:30 a.m. and I can already tell what kind of day it's going to be. I've been up for half an hour mopping up a leaky fish tank... Sigh... problem is, I still can't figure where most of the water went. I hate that at normal hours of the day... but 5 a.m. the day after daylight savings switched is just cruel. I'm trying NOT to think about the fact that it's really 4:30 a.m. to my body and just focus on the fact that I'm definitely up in time to go to work... grumble grumble... oh, and I have some time to write on my blog.

And here's Jack, working on his seafood breakfast. As far as I know he hasn't caught anything, but then, I have had a fish literally disappear from the tank this time around.

I finished up a paper for my Women's Studies course last week; the last paper for Asian-American Novel... a challenging class for me this quarter. I enjoyed learning new things, but I'm happy to put that class behind me, honestly. I forgot how intense a novel based class is and I don't feel like I really got into any of the texts we studied... or sampled, I should say, because a novel a week with 2 discussion periods on each is hardly studying.

So in other news, I'm working on preparing for a horse show at WC in May, I think. I somehow feel that, even with a couple months to work on the effort I'm going to be completely unprepared. No fault of Debbie's... I just don't feel show quality. Perhaps that's not the point... the point is the experience, I suppose.

I can't figure how, though, when we don't even get any notes from a judge, so I won't know if she just didn't like my nose or if my riding sucks or if whatever issue she finds can be fixed... But the point is the experience.

On Saturday, Leslie and I worked on some suppleness exercises with our horses. Watson is so stiff in his shoulders and neck. I could feel him clenching almost the entire time we were doing the exercises. The last time through he felt a little different, a little more supple I think... but we have a lot to work on.

Also, my equitation sucks. It's just dreadful... hands wrong, leaning too far, elbows wrong... leg moves too much. I'm a mess! And I wonder why I can't seem to get out of my head when I ride. Ha! Well, I have a ride tonight and w/daylight savings, maybe I can be outside and enjoy it? But I still have a lot to work on.

It's kitten feeding time and the cats are crying. Apparently they believe they are starved and abused.

Sigh... Monday...

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Post about your riding"

Hmmm... there's a novel thought. Post about riding horses... something I do weekly at least twice... Perhaps I should post about my RIDING... :)

Truth is, riding has been hard for me the past few months. Last April, Debbie switched barns from the Woodland Stallion Station to Willow Creek Horse park. Since she's my riding instructor and I love her dearly, and since she is ridiculously generous with saddle time for me and knows everything, I went with her. Transitions are never easy, no matter how you look at it... and honestly, this one has been pretty rocky.

I like WC a lot. It's a fancy barn, well maintained, great LARGE (and by large I mean GIGANTIC) arenas, warm water in the wash rack. It's perhaps not as homey as WSS. And no where near as beautifully situated. WSS is a gem of a boarding facility with the vineyards and the eucalyptus grove and the pastures. I definitely miss the scenery. And I miss the worn feeling that everything had. No, it didn't always mean that I could open the gate to the indoor arena, or that I wouldn't find spiderwebs covering the tack room and in every crevice... but WSS is a place unto itself... and has its charm.

I think the hardest part about leaving WSS, though, was leaving Omega, the lovely old gentleman Morgan gelding. No, he's not the brightest star of a horse... he's a brilliant horse for a beginner, though, and that's when my relationship with him began. I was a beginner, fresh off of two quarters of weekly lessons at UC Davis, and he treated me well... well... better than Trevor the crafty ancient appaloosa did, anyhow (another story for another time).

When I moved over to WC, I began riding Watson, a relatively as old as Omega, good-natured, tall, Hanoverian gelding. He's a step up as far as talent goes... he can jump cross rails and so I started learning how to jump cross rails too. Stepping up in riding means that you have to get back to the basics sometimes... that you have to relearn some things that your last horse made easy for you... and that you have to learn new things that maybe you weren't expecting.

When I first began riding Watson in May, I cried every time I went to the barn. I felt like he was too big for me, like I couldn't control him at all, and like I had regressed in my skill level so much that there was no hope for me. (Did I mention that transition is never easy?)

Debbie is fantastic and... could be a shrink (maybe she was in another life?). She's coached, coaxed, and counseled me through the down days and given me back some of my confidence. You can't ask for a better instructor, or friend.

So what is wrong? I'm not sure yet... but I need to figure myself out. Because it's the worst feeling in the world having a mini panic attack before a lesson, not being able to sleep at night, bursting into tears in the middle of my ride. Maybe I'm afraid, but I don't know what of... because everyone thinks I'm weird when I say what I think it is... I'm not afraid of falling off... although maybe I am because I haven't done it yet... I don't know. I know I'm afraid when Watson gets going and I can't make him steer accurately, much less stop. I'm afraid that we'll crash through a fence or into the wall or into someone else. I'm afraid that he'll injure himself, and that it will be my fault... that I will be responsible... through ignorance or incompetence. I am afraid.

And the power of positive thinking hasn't helped me yet. Maybe some day it will... all I know is right now when I read all those motivational tips from Jane Savoie or George Morris or anyone else, I feel cheated... like it can't be that easy. And when they tell me it is, I feel worse, not better. And it's horrible, because... all I ever wanted to do since I was a little girl was to ride horses every day... to be with them and be at peace...

But even though I've lost my peace, I can't give up riding. Not until I get it back...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A naked dog and other happenings of the weekend

Tag had a slumber party this weekend. It went well, though perhaps not as fun as we had hoped it would be. Tag's sleep over buddy was Pixel, a Chinese Crested. Yup, folks... he's naked. And he was super watchful of Tag.

After a little sniffing and some "PLAY WITH ME!!!" barking, Tag lost interest and left him alone, but the kittens! The kittens tracked Pixel from the moment he entered the house. They worked as a team! Jack would tail the strange naked creature and Gill would lay in wait, leaping out when Pixel would least expect it and causing him to screech and race for cover. It was hilarious!

In other news, I rearranged a few things in the house today. Spring cleaning if you will. I got sick of the back room (dubbed office) being so gross and unusable. We keep the litter boxes back there and a baby gate up to limit the access to the room to animals that will NOT snack on cat poo... (no names, no names)...

So I moved the desk out... and the red chair... and the shelf of medicines and whatnots... basically it's an empty room except for a couple book shelves and some cat furniture. So happy with it now! Whew! Here are Bangs and the nameless kitty enjoying the new set-up and some early March sunshine.

I'll leave you with a couple pictures that may or may not prove that my animals secretly despise me. :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Fantasy Herd

I feel the need to preface this entry by saying "I like hair." ... that is all...

The obvious number one horse in my herd is a gypsy vanner, particularly a plucky gelding. I like the non-standard colors, as well. Most gypsies come in some sort of paint coloration... I like this gray (I'm a sucker for a dapple gray anyhow). What I like best about gypsies (apart from the hair) is their small draftiness... ah yes, the oxymoron of the breed is so appealing :)... that coupled with what is supposed to be a fantastic temperament makes this my number one choice.

Next in my herd would be a Clydesdale. Why? Because it's my fantasy, that's why. I love the massiveness of these animals, the solid figure, the strength. And the hair... the feathered feet for sure... I would NEVER bob the tail or braid the mane of my big bold boy (again, a gelding is my choice). What do I plan to do with this horse? Honestly, I foresee him being a hack around bareback, or liberty training project.

The same is true for this Noriker as it is for the Clydesdale. Gentle and strong with a quiet temperament. That's how I like them :)

I'd also like a fresian for dressage. I love the showy movement of this breed, and, of course, the hair. A la Jane Savoie I see myself growing in my horsemanship and learning more about dressage on this mount. I need some fancy mirrors in my fantasy riding arena (fantasy equestrian center... a topic for another blog), as well, so that I can admire how beautiful my horse is... and perhaps perfect my technique. I do learn best by imitation... I like to see an action to internalize it and imitate it.

Next are two more flashy breeds that I envision doing liberty work with (a la Frederic Pignon).

The beautiful Andalusian (I can still hear Anthony Hopkins' voice in my mind, remembering Zorro's mount, Tornado...)...

and the Lusitano... I like this buckskin, very flashy.

If you didn't think my herd was a little random to begin with, I'd like to add a twist and have a pasture full of (15 or 20) Camargue horses.

These horses are often called "horses of the sea." I find them fascinating! They were originally wild horses living in the Rhone wetlands in France. I have a vision of moving among them as they graze around me freely... sigh...

Finally (and this one will make Leslie happy) I want a black Arabian stallion like Cass Ole.

For those of you who don't know... Cass Ole was "The Black Stallion," and has imprinted on the young hearts and minds of many horse enthusiasts. I'd appreciate it if mine could have the same spunk and personality as Cass Ole, please. Is this too much to ask?

I realize, of course, that my horse choices are not very practical, but who wants to be practical in a fantasy? I refrained from adding anything with horns or wings... that's all I'll grant you!

There you have it... now, Lauren and Leslie, it's your turn! Also, I'm by no means closing the book on this herd. Subject to amendments and additions at any time!

Coming soon, My Fantasy Equestrian Center (or Horse property, more likely).