Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pop Culture and the Weirdo's One-Track Mind

It's Wednesday morning and I'm not really feeling like myself today.

Something is missing.

I feel a little..."Lost".

For those of you who did not follow the infuriatingly addictive phenomenon that was Lost, six years of torture came to an end with the finale this past Sunday. 

Well, sort of. 

True to it's nature Lost left us with numerous unanswered questions (I am still in the process of digesting exactly how I feel about the ending) and apparently there were a LOT of plot twists thrown in for no other purpose than to add to the confusion, and which the writers felt were not worthy of explanation.  I think I would be OK with this, except for the one nagging question that I simply cannot get out of my mind:

WTF was the purpose of, and what happened to, Kate's horse???

OK..that's two questions.

Seriously, my Geek-O-Meter soared to new heights when in Season 2 a mysterious dark horse showed up on that infernal island - a horse that seemed to have some sort of connection (and therefore importance?) to Kate and her story.   Each week I would wait breathlessly for the horse to reappear only to be disappointed time and time again.

In the interest of (ahem) research, I have been perusing various Lost sites in search of answers only to become increasingly more annoyed that so few Lost "fans" seem to care to spend time discussing the significance and whereabouts of said horse.  Other than the rather bland and obtuse observations in the link above, there is very little information out there.  Again - WTF?

Attempting to placate me as I was yelling at the computer Chef pointed out that the horse did only appear in one episode, to which I said, "So what?  A HORSE showed up on the island and I'm not supposed to care what happened to it???"

Eight years of marriage and sometimes I do still wonder how well he knows me.

Still, I did see that he has pre-ordered the complete Lost series on Amazon, so maybe he does know me pretty well after all :o)

Anyone want to guess which DVD will wear out first?

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Excerpt from an actual phone conversation yesterday with my non-horsey friend JJ.  Please note that JJ lives in the "big city" an hour away from my house, and that the restaurant in question is famous for its passion fruit mimosas.  Translation - "brunch" becomes an all day event. 

Also note that JJ is one of my oldest and dearest friends; given the fact that I have stood her up countless times in favor of my horse and she is STILL my friend, she is entitled to her lighthearted hostility.

JJ:  "What's up, lady?"
Me:  "Whole lot of nothing."
JJ:  "Let me guess, you're at the barn."
Me:  "Noooo..."
JJ: "Yes you are!"
Me:  "No.  I'm heading home from the barn..."
JJ: (laughing) "I knew it!"
Me:  "What's up with you?"
JJ:  "Nothing.  Hey...I've got a group together to do brunch at Bistro X tomorrow.  Wanna join?"
Me:  "Well, it's supposed to be pretty warm tomorrow.  I was going to give Legs a bath and take his winter blankets home to wash."
JJ: "You are such a loser!"


Loser with a horse, or "winner' (?) with a passion fruit mimosa hangover?

Love ya JJ, but I think I made the right choice.  Maybe next weekend.  If it rains...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Attention OTTB Owners!

Little help, please?

I'm embarking on a new side-project, and would like to interview some OTTB owners about their horses' careers after the track.  While I'm certainly interested in stories involving a second competitive career (show jumping, dressage, eventing, etc.) I would really like to hear about horses who have gone on to serve roles that most people would not traditionally associate with an ex-racer, such as:
  • Schoolmaster for beginner riders
  • Therapeutic riding horse
  • 4-H or Pony Clubber
  • Reining or Cutting
  • Trail or Endurance
  • Police/Mounted patrol/Search and Rescue
Basically, I'm looking for a variety.  So, if you or someone you know has an interesting OTTB story they would like to share, please shoot me an email:  Put OTTB in the subject line, and I will send you some details!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Poo Do You Think You Are?

I've been on full-time barn duty for the past week while V attended her niece's graduation.  Now that she's back I can safely say all went well - the boys behaved themselves, no illnesses, injuries or great escapes.  Dusty did lose his fly mask a couple of times, but it was a great excuse to hop on Legs bareback and go a-huntin'.  Not quite as exciting as chasing fox or coyote, but hey - lemons into lemonade!

V is always grateful that I am willing to take care of the boys so she can go out of town from time to time, but the truth is I really do enjoy it.  As opposed to the large operations I used to work at (the largest of which had 100+ horses), taking care of 3 and 1/4 equines is refreshingly easy.  I love the simple efficiency of her little set up, and the ease of the daily routine allows plenty of time for thoughtful contemplation.

Just as you can tell a lot about a person by the decor of her home, you can also tell a lot about a horse by the way he keeps his stall.  I admit I am often guilty of humanizing horses' characteristics and I am personally OK with this.  That being said, while doing stalls this week I have made the following characterizations.

Please do not be scared; this will be relatively painless.

Dusty:  The Bachelor  It's no secret that most males seem to lack accuracy when aiming their stream at the porcelain god.  This deficiency does seem to be more prevalent in single males.  I have no scientific proof to back this up, but my theory is that the problem does decrease with marriage/co-habitation with the fairer sex (we are called that for a reason) due to said fairer sexes' constant bitching on the subject.  That, or they simply get better at cleaning up after themselves.  Dusty earns the title of "bachelor" because his stall is devoid of the "wet spot" - his entire stall is a wet spot.  I've never actually caught him doing it, but I would swear that he walks around as he urinates.

Zachary:  The Artist  You would think that a 9 hand mini-donkey would take full advantage of his 10' x 10' stall and spread things around, but he does not.  It's really pretty charming how he backs into one corner to drop his droppings.  Perhaps he has some sort of donkey feng shui thing going on.  What is only slightly less charming are the corresponding poop patterns on the wall behind his piles.  I can only hope that one day an image of Elvis will show up.

Skylar:  The Punk Rocker  Ever seen - or been a part of - a mosh pit at a concert?  I can only imagine that something similar happens in Skylar's stall nightly.  I have actually named his particular piece of real estate "The Mash Pit".  So thorough is he with the mashing of his poo/pee/hay/shavings that none retains any recognizable quality of its original form, but rather morphs into a new object all together - Poopeehayshave.  You may credit me with this discovery at your will.

Legs:  The Neat-Freak  A good human friend of mine (yes, I have them) falls into this category as well, to the point that she alphabetizes the items in her pantry.  I will admit that once or five times I have gone in there and moved one item just to see how long it would take her to notice and move it back (less than 5 minutes if she is cooking).  So consistent is Legs with his wet spot, that I regularly have to bring in sand and fill dirt to replenish the hole created from digging it out daily.  While he does lack Zachary's piling techniques, his poo piles are lined up perfectly along one wall  side by side, in order of completion. 

True story - several years ago the barn roof developed a leak directly above Legs' regular stall hay spot.  Fearing mold, I chose to move his hay 3 feet to the left until we could get the leak fixed.  Unfortunately, not only did I move the hay from the Designated Hay Spot, I chose to move it over a Designated Poo Spot.  When I brought Legs in that evening, he went immediately to where his hay should have been.  Although the hay was in plain view, he was decidedly confused.   He looked at me, looked at where the hay should have been, looked at me again, spotted the hay in a new spot, looked at me pleadingly one more time, then finally took a few tentative bites of hay-in-strange-location.  Needless to say, the offensive leak was fixed immediately.

Thus concludes today's admittedly inane observations.

Note:  As I finished writing this post, it was brought to my attention by the President of the HPAW Fan Club (Chef) that perhaps people would not be interested in reading the pee and poo habits of my horses, to which I said, "Have you read the title of this blog?". 

Friday, May 14, 2010

"E" is for Envy

A few weekends ago I, like a good daughter should, made the quick trip down the mountain to see Mom and Dad. The timing of the trip was necessary for a few reasons:
  • Mother's Day was coming up, but Mom had plans that weekend - her first big "away" ride since breaking her leg.  Hey, it's her holiday - if that's how she wants to spend it, more power to her!
  • Mom thought it would be fun to have a Derby party in conjunction with opening up their pool for the season. (Note to self: Next time Mom invites me to a "pool party", ask for clarification.  Unfortunately, her idea of a pool party was to have me spend 4 hours cleaning 9 months of sludge out of the pool.  Small price to pay  I guess...)
Seriously though, I do love going to their house.  Although I never actually lived in it (they moved there while I was in college) it still feels like home.  All my old stuff is still in "my" room - my bed, my desk, my dresser, my first saddle resting on my first rocking horse.  Breyers, championship coolers, rosettes.  You know, typical decor; I call it "eclectic stable".

You can tell a lot about a person by the decor of their house.  Take needle art for example.  You know, cross stitch, crochet, needlepoint stylishly framed and displayed.  I don't know if it's just a southern thing, but I have never met a respectable woman without at least one piece of needle art somewhere in her house.  My mother in law has a particularly nice one that says:

"Happiness is catching.
We get it from one another."

I like that. 

Mom of course has this gem:

"Slow calm work over low fences
will help you reach new heights in jumping."

Figures, huh?

And then there is Mom's best non-horsey friend, Miss Impeccable.  OK, that's not her real name but it sure does fit.  Miss Impeccable is just that - always dressed to the nines, never a hair out of place.  Manicured, pedicured, buffed and polished - I seriously doubt if she has ever been dirty in her life.  A four-time divorcee, she has this one in her kitchen:

"Eat, Drink, and Re-Marry!"

Cute, and very fitting.  Anyhoo, once again I have gone completely off my own topic.

Miss Impeccable had just recently moved into a new house not far from Mom & Dad's, so on Sunday morning after the Derby she invited Mom and I over for a late breakfast and the obligatory new-house-tour.  I did of course anticipate a perfectly decorated and utterly impeccable dwelling.  What I did not anticipate was the insane jealously I would soon feel regarding one aspect of said dwelling.  I'm not a jealous person by nature so this took me completely by surprise - it's taken me over a week to get over myself enough to write this post!

Ever the proud hostess, the tour began immediately with the lovely high-ceilinged foyer, on into the formal dining and living rooms, to the more casual great room, master suite, then on upstairs to the office and guest bedroom.  We finished in the large kitchen complete with breakfast nook and French doors leading onto a bricked patio.  Miss Impeccable busied herself preparing her signature western omelettes, and we all spent a bit of time catching up.  It was then that I noticed a door slightly ajar leading off the kitchen.

"What's back there?"  I asked.

"Oh that.  That's just the mud room.  Go on, take a peak.  It's nothing special."

Mud room?  She has a mud room?  I opened the door and stepped into a large enclosure and was blinded by whiteness.  The walls were white.  The floors were white tile.  White curtains.  Hanging on a white coat rack was a perfectly white raincoat.  Arranged on low white shelves were some garden clogs (sans any speck of mud), a few pairs of sneakers, and a white pair of rain boots - also spotless.

Imagine a room whose sole intention is to be a place to discard muddy  and soiled clothing prior to entering the house, and here was one that was - well, impeccable.  I thought briefly about the pile of smelly jackets and mud caked boots that occupy one small corner of my kitchen. 

Just what the heck is this lady doing with a mud room??? 

OK.  Maybe I'm not quite over it yet.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guerrilla Marketing - Weirdos Unite!

OK all...if you've been following my posts about Legs' story you'll know that my discoveries so far would not have been possible without the help of Lynn Reardon of LOPE (Lone Star Outreach to Place Ex-Racers). She is also the author of Beyond the Homestretch - a wonderful book about her experiences starting up a TB rescue, the horses she has met, and what she has learned about them and herself in the process.

I bought the book right after it was released in November of 2009 and fell in love with it. Normally, I am happy to "share" books with friends and family (Mom in particular), but this one I wanted to keep for myself. SO since portions of the proceeds benefit LOPE, I bought a second copy for Mom as a gift.

When I was at my parents this past weekend Mom and I stopped at her local Barnes & Nobel to pick up a few things. Perusing the pet section I came across a lone copy of BTH. I had a few other people in mind who would enjoy it and was prepared to buy this last copy when Mom snatched it out of my hand.

"Let me," she said, "you gave me a copy and now I will give you one to give away as well."

We argued for a few minutes, then took the book to the counter where we told the clerk that they really needed to order more. The clerk as it turns out was also the manager, and a horse person to boot! We encouraged her to order many more, and we would make sure they got sold.

This is how great ideas sometimes start. Lynn has been a big help to me, and I really want to return the favor.

You may have noticed a new gadget to the right of the blog posts - click the picture of the book and you will be connected to the Amazon page (Note: this is NOT a Google ad - just a link! ). I encourage the rest of my blogging buddies to add this gadget too. If you want to re-post this, all the better!

More ways to help:
1) Buy TWO copies, give one away. Then encourage the gift recipient to do the same.

2) Go to your local bookstore and make sure they have it in stock. Let them know about LOPE and encourage them to buy some additional copies(it helps to tell them you will be recommending it to friends!).

Spread the word!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Zen and the Art of Stall Cleaning

First, begin at the beginning. Stage one of your journey is preparation. Are you appropriately attired for the job? Will gloves be necessary? Ask your hands directly and the answer will be clear.

Take your time selecting your tools. There are no right or wrong choices. Breathe slowly; this will prepare you for the deeper stages.

As you enter the stall so not become overwhelmed by the size of your task. Recognize that this is the purpose of your journey. Keep your scoops light and quick - manure need not be forced into the wheelbarrow in big deposits.

Keep moving. Prepare to be flexible and let go of your expectations - surprises can lurk in every corner.

Relax into the rhythm of your movements. Stage one of your journey is nearly complete. On your way to the manure pile take time to reflect on where you have been so far.

Allow yourself to enjoy the view from the stall windows, the horses grazing peacefully in the pasture. These moments of peace are rare; they are temporary.

Begin your next stage by filling the once dirty wheelbarrow with fresh, clean shavings. Choose a stall to fill. It does not matter which one. This is your chance to fool with the order of your normal universe, to reverse previous perceptions.

As you finish spreading the shavings, allow your body and brain to slowly return to the real world. Notice which water buckets are in need of scrubbing. This will prepare you for re-entry.

When the last of the buckets is filled reflect on your experience. Did you accomplish what was needed? Were there unexpected rewards? Did the experience fill you up as the stalls were emptied?

Such is the journey.

Friday, April 30, 2010

I Found Her - Part III, or What She Told Me

It became obvious very quickly that I had on the line a woman who was passionate about thoroughbreds and racing. With an encyclopedic knowledge of bloodlines, her recall was truly awe-inspiring. On any other day, I would have been content to just listen to her rattle off race records and track stories but I was after something specific, and she was happy to oblige.

What She Told Me #1: How Legs Got His Name
"Read My Legs" raises a snicker every time someone sees it on his halter plate. It is a silly name, especially for a race horse. What had puzzled me was where it came from. Neither his sire or his dam had any component of that name in theirs. The story goes like this: at the time of Legs' birth, Ms. S had a foreman who was fond of mocking a certain president by declaring "read my lips!" before just about anything profound (or not) he had to say. When Legs stood for the first time on his wobbly foal legs, the foreman proclaimed, "Read my lips! I mean legs! Look at the stems on that one! He's going to run!" And so Legs was named.

WSTM #2: Why He Started "Late" to Racing
I mentioned in the last post that Legs was well past his "real" 2 year birth date before he ran his first race, and that Ms. S was a big believer in holding off on pushing them too hard. But there was more to Legs' story.

"He was a nervous one," she explained, "really cautious. Had to be sure my most confident riders were on him. Just needed encouragement. Once he was confident there was nothing he would not do for you, but it took a lot to gain that confidence. The first time we took him to Delta I had the girl just walk him around the track, and he literally trembled the whole time! We let him hang out for a week then brought him home. The next time we took him, he wouldn't unload! Thought we would never get him off that trailer, but we did. And this time he was less nervous. Once we actually put him to work he got to liking it - a lot! Glad we took our time with him. Horse like that - once he's lost the nerve he won't likely get it back."

I'm glad too, Ms. S. In that respect, he's not changed a whole lot.

WSTM #3: Big Potential = Big Frustration
"Once we got him really working he impressed. My foreman was right - he could run! Blew everyone away. A week or so before his first race I had him worked out with 3 or 4 other 2 year olds he would be up against, and he out and out smoked them! Left them in the dust! I was of course all excited, thinking this is the one! Then came race day and that booger finished dead last - against the same horses and at a slower pace than he ran the week before!" She paused for a laugh, "He was a frustrating one, but that's horse racing."

WSTM #4: Family History
"I wasn't too worried about his first start though. All [dam's] foals were late bloomers. Let me ask you this - what does he prefer, hay or grass?"

This totally threw me. One of Leg's many nicknames is "Hay Head", because no matter how deep or lush the grass may be, if hay is offered he will stand there until every last straw is consumed before wandering off to graze. I related this to Ms. S, who laughed again. "Yeah, I'm standing here right now looking out at his half sister. Knee deep in grass and hanging her head over the fence waiting for her hay..."

Hold the phone! Did she just say his half sister??

"Yep, Indy, she's still here. Last foal out of [dam]. Sweet girl - they all are. She's 17 now. Raced a couple seasons and did well. I brought her home to breed her, but she had difficulties. When it happened the first time...OK, but when she had trouble with the second one I said 'no more'". Didn't want her going back into racing again - she was already 8 by that time and had been off the track for 4 years. So here she is, babysitting the young ones, eating hay. Spitting image of yours. Course [dam] threw nothing but big chestnuts, no matter who we bred her too."

So, Legs' dam was known for her big, chestnut, good natured, hay loving babies. That right there explained so much.

WSTM #5: Lost...and Found
"I hated to let him go, but I had a bunch running and had to make a choice. Never an easy one. I knew as long as he kept running I could keep up with him - and I did: Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, finally West Virginia, I always knew what he was up to. Course he started doing well the year after I let him go!" She laughs again, "late bloomer."

"So when Mr. C called me from the Mountaineer to tell me he was retiring him and had a buyer in NC, of course I contacted her too - told her to keep in touch. Sounded like a good place. Lady knew what she was doing with a track baby."

Here I had to laugh - Legs retired at age 10, hardly a "track baby!" Ms. S giggled too.

"Yeah, he sure held up. So anyway this lady in NC bought him and we kept in touch for a while. Then I get an email from her that she - or her husband, one of the two - were to be stationed overseas for a while and she was selling him. I don't check my email often, so by the time I got the message she was gone and so was he. That's where I lost him..." For the first time in over an hour, she paused. "But, I'm glad we found each other now."

Me too, Ms. S.

So that, I guess, is where the story begins. It will end with me - someday. Encouraged by my success at tracing his roots, I feel ready to really seek out that elusive "middle" portion of Legs' life that still holds a bunch of question marks - the scar on his neck, for example. Ms. S has offered to help in any way she can.

And because everything else she has told me so far makes perfect sense, I believe that too.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Found Her - Part II, or Why I Love This Woman

When I received the message on my phone that my five year search had finally come to an end, the butterflies that had occupied my stomach suddenly morphed into grasshoppers. Her message stated that I could call her anytime that day IF I wanted to. Driving through the valley I literally laughed out loud, letting the grasshoppers out for some much needed exercise.

I had 20 minutes left in my commute to run through the plethora of questions that I had accumulated over the years, to prepare myself for this conversation. But nothing could have prepared me for what followed.

This blog was born from the idea that horse people share a connection - a weirdness if you will - not understood by those who do not have horses in their lives. The next two hours of my life would prove this more than the combined experiences of my prior 30 some odd years. How else do you explain how two people who have never met, who are separated by hundreds of miles and several decades, who share nothing more than a past and present relationship with one horse, could spend so much time on the phone and somehow understand each other so completely?

Reason #1 Why I Love This Woman: She knows horses, hers in particular
Within moments of getting her on the phone, I knew I had a real horse person on the line. Ms. S had that breathless, exhausting way of speaking that is so typical of anyone who has spent anytime on the backstretch. After exchanging the briefest of pleasantries, she got right down to business.

"So, who is it that you have?"

When I told her Read My Legs, she let out a mini-shriek. "Oh my God! I've been wondering what happened to him!" She then went into full on info mode, telling me all about his sire, dam, siblings, and all their track records: number of races run/won, money earned, years they ran and where. Her recall is impressive - keep in mind Legs was foaled 21 years ago this month.

Reason #2 WILTW: She is a good owner
Ms. S went on to tell me that in 40 years of breeding, she has brought into this world almost 300 foals; out of those, she has lost track of only 5 (4 now). The rest she knows about completely, from where they ran their last race to when they passed on, and every new career in between. Every foal she has ever sold has had a buy back clause, and she has made good on that on numerous occasions.

Reason #3 WILTW: She breeds and trains for quality and longevity
I knew from Legs' Jockey Club records that he was nearly 3 before he ran his first race and I had always wondered why that was, since most trainers would have had him running at 18 months. Ms. S informed me that the believes in waiting, as well as breeding for soundness over speed, and the logic behind "intermittent training"; that is, she doesn't run the youngsters hard, merely allows them to get used to the track and learn their job. Few of her horses ever won a race before the age of 5, but a great many of them had long track careers. With very few exceptions, those that left the track early remained rideable well into their twenties, some even into their thirties. And she has never, ever had one break down on the track - a fact you can tell she is immensely (and rightfully) proud of.

Reason #4 WILTW: It's all about the horses' best interests
Ms. S sold off her last stallion a few years ago when the economy started to really put a damper on, well everything. People just were not investing in horses anymore. She is no longer actively breeding for this reason. Furthermore, right now she has all she can take care of - 5 at the track, and 22 at the farm. Most of these are retired broodmares, whom she will care of forever. After all, they gave her a lot over the years. A few are "babies" that came back home to live after their track years were over, and she will see them through for the same reason. Although technically retired at the age of 70, Ms. S still works to insure that the horses are well fed and cared for. That's dedication.

Basically, she was everything I had hoped to find. Somehow I just knew a horse like Legs' was no fluke - that someone had truly put a lot of thought into him and prepared him to lead the fullest life possible. Everything she told me about her life with horses mirrored my own beliefs. In an alternate world - had I become a TB breeder - she is exactly the type I would have wanted to be.

We talked about many other things, and through her I learned a LOT about Legs. But once again I have rambled on, and most of us really should get back to work now ;o)

Coming up - "What She Told Me"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Found Her!!!

The past few weeks have been quite full and exciting, in both bad and good ways. Things are slowly returning to "normal" (is there such a thing in the horse world?) and I am so pleased to finally be able to write today's post containing the Best News Ever.

After nearly five years of searching, I have finally connected with the lady who bred Legs!

I'll admit, my search has not been continuous, nor has it been exhaustive. More intermittent and somewhat - well, can't really say lazy, but cautious. When I first took Legs over from his previous owner I got his Jockey papers transferred to me, so I had the breeder lady's name. At the time I was curious, but not really sure who I would encounter. Thoroughbred breeders come in a variety of types. Would this be a representative of some big conglomerate who could care less? A sketchy one time back yard breeder type? Who was this person? And more importantly, what did she know of Legs? Was she still around? Would she remember Legs at all? Would she be happy or bothered at hearing from me? These questions kept my search efforts at bay.

The catalyst for our connection came in the form of a hasty email fired off on April 17th, Legs official 21st birthday. I had gone for a ride and - I admit it - split a beer with the old boy. Hey, he is 21 now! Chef came home from work early and we had a bit of a celebration. A few beers later I decided it was appropriate to continue my search.

I pulled out the old file I had on him, and looked through all of the dead ends I had encountered over the years. I had a name (a very common one as it turned out - a Google and white pages search listed literally hundreds!), and knew he was bred in Texas. On a whim, I shot an email off to LOPE, a TB rescue in Texas run by Lynn Reardon, author of Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses (a wonderful read - highly recommended by this discerning and avid reader!). I asked if anyone there had ever heard of this lady and knew how to get a hold of her. Not really expecting too much, I then passed out went to bed.

The next morning, after washing down some ibuprofen with coffee, I opened my email to a pleasant surprise - an email from Lynn herself! While she was not familiar with the lady in question, she did give me some links to various Texas Thoroughbred breeder sites and wished me luck.

Low and behold, one of those links turned up a farm that shared a name with the lady in question. After looking at the farm profile, I saw that they were certainly in business when Legs was born. As a bonus, I found out that they used to stand his sire! This had to be it. There was an email and phone number listed. Being still a bit unsure of my reception, I thought to try an email first. Unfortunately, the emails would end up bouncing as an invalid address. So, it would be phone call or nothing.

It took a few days to work up the courage. I looked at that number until I could stand it no more, then took a big breath and dialed. On the fourth ring a pleasant sounding gentleman answered. After explaining that I was not sure if I had the right number, I told him I was looking for a lady named S.S. who was breeding racehorses in the late 80's, that I had a horse of hers and was looking for information on him. A small chuckle preceded his response.

"Yes, you've got the right place. She's not in right now, but I'm sure she could help you out. She's pretty in touch with her horses." He took my name and number and said he expected her in later that evening.

It was already almost 8:00 NC time, and while I did not really expect a call that same night I laid awake well past midnight listening for the phone, excited an nervous at the same time.

The phone did not ring that night, but the next day on my way home from work I turned my cell phone on to a missed call and new message (I usually keep my phone off during the day - no reception on the mountain I work on and it just runs the battery down searching for signal). It was her, and she would be around all day if I wanted to call her back.

If I wanted to call her back? I could hardly wait to get home and make that call.

I spent almost two hours on the phone with her that evening. She is an amazing woman with equally amazing stories to tell. She very much remembers a horse foaled on her farm named Read My Legs, and told me all about him. But, as I have rambled for way too long as it is, I will leave that for another day.

Coming up..."Why I Love This Woman and What She Told Me".

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Taking the Bad with the Good

Sorry no post last week. It was one hell of a week. I've posted before about how I'm pretty superstitious, and last week only confirmed one of my many irrational fears - that bad things happen in threes.

The Bad
1. Monday
Sophie, my sweet little 16 month old Rotti/Cattle Dog mix, has had a funny lump on her forehead for a couple of weeks. We had it checked out when it popped up, but a return trip to the vet confirmed that it was pretty suspicious looking - more tumor-like than lump-like. Surgery was scheduled for the following week.

2. Tuesday
One of my mother-in-law's Shelties was diagnosed with lung cancer. He will not have long. MIL is totally freaked and upset. Her dogs are her life, especially since she lost her husband two years ago. She is 86 years old and has some health problems of her own. Chef and I really fear for her state of mind/will to live if she loses the little guy.

3. Thursday
Skylar got out of his stall overnight. He's always been a bit of an escape artist, but we are very careful to keep the aisle door to his stall double latched. On occasion, he has let himself out the back door into the pasture, but Wednesday night the little booger outdid himself. Apparently, he opened the back door, went around to Dusty's back door, opened it, let Dusty out into the pasture, then let himself out Dusty's front door and was basically free. Dusty, bless him, stayed put in the pasture, but Skylar gorged himself on some alfalfa in the aisle and the ultra rich grass around the barn. He also had no access to water for many hours. When V got there Thursday morning not only was he showing signs of colic, but laminitis as well.

The vet was called and got there quickly. They started him on IV fluids (he was really dehydrated) and a DMSO drip. He perked up later, and passed some poo, but still acting ouchy on the front feet. We bedded him up, iced his feet, and hoped for the best.

Friday morning he colicked again, and off to the emergency clinic he went. Vets there confirmed that he may have partial blockage and set to watching him. They continued to ice his feet, and initial X-rays showed no rotation. I know that does not mean much; it's really too early to tell if any damage was done. We are truly blessed to have such a great clinic just 40 minutes away.

Anyway, I wanted to wait until I had some good news again before posted anything about this horrible week. Unfortunately, there is not much good to say about the Sheltie; he will most likely be put down later on this week (he's already having some difficulty breathing). We will just have to take it one day at a time with MIL.

Sophie came through surgery just fine and is home annoying her big brother Burton (our 3 year old Shepherd/Husky mix) and the cat. She's been drinking and peeing a lot, but the vet says that is probably an after effect of the anesthesia and should clear up in a day or so. We should have the biopsy results next week, so I am crossing my fingers until then.

Skylar is home - stall bound, bedded up to his knees, and on limited hay and no grain, but home. Vet will be out Friday to do more X-rays, and time will tell if we caught it in time.

The Good
Sunday night I just really needed to get to my happy place. It was a lovely evening and I jumped on Legs bareback for a twilight ride by the river. A cool breeze kept the bugs at bay, the whippoorwills called softly in the distance, and while the sun was setting the bats began their nightly dance overhead. As we wandered aimlessly I was reminded just why we go through everything we do for our four-legged family members.

Despite all the downs, the ups are always worth it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An April Fool's Story

I promise that I do not have a horse related story for every single holiday. Or maybe I do. At any rate if you are reading this blog chances are you are a horse-crazed "fool" (see also "weirdo") and what better way of celebrating this crazy holiday than with a good crazy horse story. Bear with me, for we are about to embark on a topic very near and dear to my heart. My first (love) pony - Daisy.

Remember Daisy?
I could, and probably should, write a whole series of children's books based on my Daisy stories, but today I will focus on how she came into my life and ultimately - almost three decades ago this very day - she became mine.

Mom was working at a large riding academy and summer camp as an instructor at the time. When I say large I ain't kidding - 30+ lesson horses, 5 instructors, 3 rings. Tueday through Thursday they ran two morning adult sessions and two afternoon kid sessions, all three rings with 6 to 10 students. Saturday lessons ran hourly from 9 until noon, then from 1 until 4. It was literally a three-ring circus, and to a horseless horse crazed kid like me it was heaven. I could ride in as many lessons as I wanted in exchange for helping to groom and tack horses, taking them to get a drink between classes, and helping take care of the "old guys", a collection of horses who had retired from the lesson program. It was all the horsiness a kid could want, except...none of them were really "mine".

During these years Mom also had a little side business of buying cheap, unbroke or unfinished horses, putting some miles on them, and reselling. Mom always had a good eye, and sometimes she did not have to go far to find her projects. One day Mr. Brown, the owner of the small boarding facility next door, approached her about a mare (not Daisy - I'm getting to her) on his property whose owner was older with health problems, and was having trouble paying the mare's bills on top of her own medical expenses. The mare was a teenaged grade-type liver chestnut whose name is now lost to both Mom and I.

According to the owner, she was broke and quiet but had not been ridden in a few years. Mr. Brown remembered when she was being ridden that she had a sweet and nurturing disposition, took good care of her inexperienced rider, and he thought she might make a good addition to the lesson program. So later that week, Mom went next door with a halter brought the mare to the school. Of course, I tagged along. And on that eventful walk from one pasture to the next we met Daisy.

It started out normal enough, the mare walking next to Mom, ears pricked, curious as to what exactly was happening, but quiet and trusting nonetheless. We were so engrossed with her that at first we did not notice the commotion going on back at Mr. Brown's. Then...crashing, yelling, high-pitched panicked horse calls, and galloping hoofbeats behind us. We turned around and there she was - Daisy, all 13 hands of dappled cuteness at a full gallop, running to catch her friend.

She stopped as soon as she reached us. Mom handed the other mare to me and slipped her belt around Daisy's neck. Mr. Brown was not far behind. "I was afraid that might happen," he chuckled as he slipped the halter on Daisy. "I put her in the stall, but she jumped out. She's pretty attached to this one" he nods to the mare at Mom's side.

"She jumped out?" Mom was stunned. Mr. Brown's stall doors were a good 4' high at the window, and the stalls themselves were small enough that even a little pony would have had to jump from a standstill.

"Yeah, she'll do that," Mr. Brown laughed again, "I'll put her back up and close the upper door for a while. She'll calm down in a bit." And he led her away back down the road.

Mr. Brown was a good enough horse person to know that you can't keep a pony cooped up in a stall forever, so the next day when she seemed calmer he turned her back out in the pasture, where she proceeded to jump the fence (again, a solid 4') and come next door to find her friend. We brought her home, but this scenerio would play out every day for the next week. The first time Mom actually saw her do this, her eyes about popped out of her head.

"Damn, that pony can jump!" Mom never was one to watch her mouth, especially around her own child. The very next day she walked next door to speak to Mr. Brown.

Turns out Mr. Brown did not own Daisy. The full story of Daisy's past is worthy of its own post, so I will leave it for another day. Or maybe I will make you buy the book. Let's just say it involved a green pony, a young child, and a wild ride resulting in the child's desire to never ride a horse again. At any rate, she was basically hanging out in Mr. Brown's pasture, not doing a thing. Mom has always believed that a horse needs a job, and Daisy being only 6 years old at the time was certainly working material.

Mom and Mr. Brown spoke for a while, and he called up Daisy's owner. It seemed logical that since Daisy was going to continue to jump the fence she might as well stay where she was. It would also make it easier for Mom (who was 5' and all of 95 lbs) to work with her some. If they could get her sellable, Mom would split the sale price with the owner. He agreed and Mom got to work.

Although I was allowed to brush on and do some groundwork with Daisy, it was several months before Mom felt she was ready for me and I for her. Daisy was still green, and I was very young, but keep in mind I had more riding miles under my belt at 10 than many people do at 20, so it wasn't history gearing up to repeat itself.

Or was it.

The first ride started off well. I was riding in the big arena with a few other kids. We did some trot work: circles, serpentines, work over poles. All fine and dandy. Cantering - fine. A bit quick in the corners, but she came right back to me. Things were going so well that Mom decided to let us trot over a VERY small crossrail. I don't even think the poles were in jump cups, but were rather just laying on the supports. It was that small. Daisy, however, saw a very different jump.

To this day, Mom swears that pony cleared the standards. Completely caught off guard (no lesson horse ever did THAT) I took a tumble, and Daisy took off. And somehow, in the middle of all the ensuing choas, I fell in love.

For the next month, I continued to ride Daisy in every lesson I could. Every lesson went about the same as that first ride: it all fell apart once we started jumping. Eventually she would trot quietly over the Very Small Crossrail, but anytime we raised the bar so to speak she would act like she was at the Olympic trials.

I fell off every day that month, and while I was no stranger to the unplanned dismount my quota was full and then some.

Dad was getting a little fed up with all my bumps and bruises, and he was not the only one who noticed them. After an embarrassing PTA meeting where my teacher asked if there were problems at home he had enough. The pony would be sold by the end of the month or she was going back to Mr. Brown's.

I continued to ride her, because despite the jumping issues she really was getting better under saddle. She was a joy on the trails, and being turned out with a herd of 50 or so horses seemed to have helped her separation issues; she hardly noticed her old mare friend at all (side note - that grade mare did turn out to be a wonderful lesson horse!). I cherished every moment with Daisy, even the ones spent on the ground, partly because I knew our time together was limited.

And then it was here - the last day, the last ride. No buyers. Daisy would go back to Mr. Brown's the next day. It was April 1st.

I showed up for my lesson and lingered just a bit longer tacking up. All through warm up my mind was elsewhere, remembering all the fun (yes, FUN) we had had the past few weeks. When we lined up to jump the little 2' vertical I was a million miles away. Maybe that was the difference. Maybe Daisy felt it too. She did over jump, but not as much as before. We had turned the corner and were heading back to the end of the line when it hit me and everyone else in the ring.

"You stayed on!"

We jumped that little vertical several more times that day. Daisy still jumped big, but not standard-clearing big. And I stayed on. Every. Single. Time.

To this day I have no idea how Mom talked Dad into it, but later that night she came into my room and asked if I wanted to go out and ride MY pony the next day. It took a minute for what she was saying to register, but when it did I sat straight up in bed and said:

"Mom, if this is a joke it's not funny!"

It wasn't.

Happy April Fool's Day, ya'llDaisy and I cleaning up in the Medium Pony division. She really could jump!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

...Became a Fan of "My Arms Will Fall Off Before My Horse's Winter Coat Does!"

Oh, wait. This isn't Facebook!

Seriously, someone should create this group if it hasn't been created yet. I would but after all that grooming who has the energy?

The weather here in the WNC mountains is not helping much. Sixty five and sunny one day, 35 and snowing the next...poor Leg man can't decide if he should hold onto his coat or lose it.

I say lose it. I'll blanket you at forty degrees out if necessary, but for the love of all that is good and decent in this great world lose that fur!

It's not a vanity issue (although I do admit that I greatly prefer Legs' shiny, coppery summer coat to his dull, red winter one) it's a health issue. Because with the return of wildly varying temperatures, barn swallows, and hay fever comes the return of "The Rot". Rain Rot that is.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
You TB owners - and TB owners living in damp climates particularly - know what I'm talking about. The Rot, once it makes itself at home, is a tough bitch to get rid of.

So I continue to brush until I'm lightheaded, my nostrils clogged with hair, and love every minute of it because this yearly ritual signifies the coming of Spring (for real, though Legs tried to tell you so).

It really is a ritual, isn't it? All horse people seem to have their little routines, the preferred way to go about things. Here is my preferred method of spring shedding:

  • Curry comb
  • Brush
  • Shedding blade
  • Brush
  • Repeat after riding.

Despite my best efforts, The Rot does make an appearance once or twice a year. The most popular locations on Legs are:

  • Hind legs

  • Spine

  • Butt cheeks

I do apologize for my use of the phrase "butt cheeks", but really how else to describe?

Even a dime-sized area of Something-That-Might-Be-The-Rot will send me into full Rot Battle Mode. I have at my disposal a full arsenal of Rot Fighting products. I've found out through extensive (unfunded of course) research that The Rot, despite its horrid reputation, is actually very easy going. It can adapt and adjust to many adverse living conditions.

Perhaps we can learn something from The Rot? Perhaps. I still don't want it on my horse.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Little Stroll Through Time

Actually, would you mind if I exercised my inner child for a bit? It has been a long and boring winter...Ready?

Keep in mind I have already said this is childish...

Today, my husband tracked wood shavings into the house.

I only bring it up because the tracking in of wood shavings has been a source of contention here and there in our marriage. Not in a bad way, in a we'll-laugh-our-asses-off-about-this-later way. We all have our weirdnesses.

Here is photographic evidence of the said shavings:

The dog hair seen in the photograph has been included to show the approximate shape and size of the shavings. Love ya babe, but you are busted!

Digressing is a habit that can become addictive.
Here are the pictures I got from Mom & Dad's this past weekend. I want to call this series "The Horse Gene"

I posted this one a while back. Mom & Tar Baby.

Here is the one I was thinking about in that post. Mom & hackney type driving pony:

Flash forward 20 years. Mom and "Big Red Fred" her long time pal. They were quite the team! I will have to do their own post someday. Are those rust colored breeches? They are!

Present Day
Here is Mom and Miss Mary May!

OK, so the dressage pic is with a trainer on her, but damn she looks good there!

Mom and Mary are quite the team too. Of course Mom grew up in the irons and has always been able to sit a horse well. There were some that she clicked with more than others, and in a life full of horses it is those that we all remember even if we were only outsiders looking in.

And just so Chef knows I'm not really upset at his shaving accusations, here is a really cool pic we found online. The dapper gentleman in front is his grandfather.

Monday, March 15, 2010

WARNING! Shameless Self-Promoting Post Ahead!

Maybe it's not exactly "Self" promotion, and maybe I really am just too proud of myself for figuring out how to post YouTube videos, but this contest really is just too cool! So...all you outdoorsy types sign up and pass it on!

I am working on another post with LOTS of cool photos (stolen from Mom & Dad's this past weekend) and will return to regular posting soon!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Honorary Horse People

I have been wanting to do this post for a while, but it requires some visual effects and I could not for the life of me figure out how to post YouTube videos. And I'm too shy to ask. Then...

...FINALLY GOT IT! Guess it was what you would call a "lightbulb moment." It's always about HTML, isn't it?

I've been thinking about lightbulb moments a lot this week and will explain what I mean by that in a future post regarding lightbulb moments. But not today.

Today, it is about other weirdos and their lightbulb momements.

Who was the first person to think of racing a crapper down a slippery slope?

Who first thought "I can build a faster outhouse!"

And to the innovators who said "it's not enought to go fast in a house of crap! We must look good doing it!" to them, I say, "Bravo!"

So without (too much) further ado...

Honorary Horse People - March 2010
Outhouse Racers of Concunully, WA

Bless you one and all, citizens of Concunully, Washington. And congratulations on being the very first winners of the soon-to-be-coveted HorsePeopleAreWeird (HPAW)Honorary HorsePeople Award.

That was fun. Oh please, please let spring come soon!


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Hierarchy Unraveled. Or, The Big Guy Finally Stands Up For Himself. Or, Where is a Camera When You Need One?

First a quick note to Those Who Scoffed At My Last Post (you know who you are!). OK. I admit I am looking out at the 10" of snow that we got yesterday. Still...that does not mean Legs is wrong. He only predicts that spring is coming, not how soon it will get here. So there!

Second, I need to preface this post with a bit of information on the hierarchy of our little herd.

Dusty: 14.3 hand, 22 year old palomino QH. He is our alpha, and damn good at it! Best alpha I have ever known. He keeps the others in line by acting like he will rip them to shreds, but never actually makes contact. If the farm were a high school, Dusty would be the squat but powerful jock type that everyone fears, but few know well.

Skylar: 15 hand, 7 year old palomino QH. Skylar is Mr. Popularity. Friends to all, be they human, horse, cat, or dog. Both Dusty and Skylar belong to V. She had a thing for Trigger growing up :o)

Zachary: 6 month old 150 lb. mini-donkey. Kind of like the kid brother who is always hanging around. And finally...

Legs: 16.1 hand, 21 year old chestnut OTTB. A.K.A "Leg Man", "Oucho Marx", and "The One-Eyed, One-Horned Flying Chestnut Carrot Eater" (Pic at right is before we removed that left eye...he's still just as cute!). Legs is the recluse, the introvert. He's a lover, not a fighter.

Yes, you have read this hierarchy correctly. Though good buddies with Skylar, Legs is decidedly the low man on the totem pole. Even below Zachary; the little booger regularly chases the Big Man off his hay pile. Guess those big ears can be pretty scary when pinned back.

That may have changed this morning. We'd thrown out extra hay due to the aforementioned snow, and because temps were supposed to linger around freezing until early afternoon, everyone went out in their blankets. I was in the barn banging ice out of the water buckets when I heard V yelling out back, something along the lines of "Put him down!".

I ran out to see what happened and saw Legs standing protectively over a pile of hay, calmly holding the tail flap of Zachary's blanket in his teeth. Poor Zach's front legs were still on the ground, but his back legs were kicking uselessly in the air.

I'm not a mother in the traditional sense, though I consider my dogs, cat, and horse to be my "children." I'm not sure if the mixture of horror and pride that I felt would be a natural maternal response to seeing a child - previously bullied by all - suddenly stand up for himself. Still, Zachary is one-tenth Legs' size. Is this something to be proud of?

Yet proud I was, especially when Legs, with a sigh of resignation, did set Zach down and push him away. No harm, no foul. Only time will tell if this new hierarchy will stick. My only real fear now is that Zachary's back hooves would land at Legs' knee level if he were so inclined to retaliate.

Because no one got hurt, V and I did share a laugh over the whole situation. And where the heck is a camera when you need one? $10,000 buys s lot of alfalfa!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Take That, Mr. Groundhog!

After my rather depressing post on Monday, I needed to get back to my "happy place", which of course is almost always with my horse. Are you ready for some good news? Here it is...

I have it on VERY good authority that spring is on the way! No, I did not hear it from any rodent meteorologist wannabe. Please. My source is infinitely more reliable; he has accurately forecasted the onset of spring every year since I had the pleasure of making his acquaintance. I am hesitant to even reveal his identity as he is a bit of a private being, and the media frenzy that would no doubt result once the world discovered a prognosticator who could actually prognosticate might just be too much for him.

Who is this visionary, this oracle, this meteorological genius? Why, Legs of course. And he is officially shedding. OK, maybe not in great billowing handfuls of fur yet, but there was decidedly more hair in the ol' curry comb yesterday.

Plus, the vet is coming out today to give spring shots and float teeth. We call them "spring" shots for a reason. Who would give spring shots in the middle of winter? That just does not make sense! No, the season of vernal warmth has to be on its way - and soon.

I have to believe this is true. Because I'm cold, and I'm sick of being cold. I'm sick of needing a flashlight to walk the dogs at 6:30 PM. I'm sick of my winter clothes. And my barn jacket is getting pretty ripe. And if I knit Chef one more beanie this year he will probably divorce me.

I need to be outside more! I need sun and warmth! More than that, I need hope that these things will soon be possible! Thank you, dear prophet Legs, for providing me with this.

I will now return to ignoring the snowflakes blowing outside my window.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Irrational Fears of a Horse Owner

NOTE: Apologies in advance for this post. I will try to post something happier tomorrow.

Does anyone remember The Sunscreen Song? It got some airtime in spring of 1999, and is actually an article by Chicago Tribune staff writer Mary Schmich set to music. Even if you do not remember the song you probably remember the internet hoax that went around in the mid-90's attributing this article to Kurt Vonnegut, who allegedly gave it as a commencement speech to MIT's graduating class of 1997.

Now that we have cleared that up, let me explain why I brought it up in the first place. One line from that article has always resonated with me:

"The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4PM on some idle Tuesday."

Or 8 AM on a Sunday in my case.

Every horse owner has suffered a bout of the "what ifs" from time to time. There is just SO MUCH that can (and does) happen to horses. A horse owner can drive him or herself crazy worrying about the multitude of things that could possibly happen. Just last week, V told me how Zachary the mini-donkey's breeder had been horrified that we were going to stall him at night.

Her statement: "But, don't you worry about a barn fire?"

Yes, Zachary's Breeder, we do. And we worry about lightning strikes when they are out in the pasture. And the coyotes that frequent our river valley. And alien abductions/mutilations. Colic, strangles, West Nile, sinkholes, speeding drunk drivers careening into the field/barn. All of these scenarios have crossed our minds at one point or another.

And yet as Ms. Schmich so eloquantly states, it is seldom those lie-awake-at-night worries that actually end up happening. But back to 8 AM yesterday.

Chef had left for work and I was trying to get some coffee going (I am no good without coffee). The phone rings just a few minutes later. It's Chef.

Chef: "Have you talked to V this morning?"

Me: "Hmmmfffth."

Chef: "I just passed the barn. They have G___ B___ Rd. shut off and there are cops everywhere. Looks like animal control too. And there is a helicoper hovering over the river."


Chef: "I don't know. I was watching the helicopter, didn't notice the barn...."

Me: (pulling on pants, phone pressed to shoulder, kicking dogs out of the way) "M&#$% F&%$ GD...what do you mean you didn't notice the barn???...I'm on my way!"

Chef: "Wait..."


I'll admit, I don't really know what I was thinking at this point (remember, I had not had any coffee yet), but the words "cops" and "animal control" were flying through my brain. It's possible I've just watched too many rescues on Animal Cops.

I won't keep you in suspense any longer. I got to the barn. V was there, and the horses were fine - munching their hay and occasionally looking up at the helicopter, which was in fact hovering over the tree farm adjacent to our pasture (they really are a pretty laid-back bunch). The "animal control" vans that Chef thought he saw were actually K9 units. V filled me in - they were searching for a missing person (16 year old boy) whose last contact had been with his family late the night before, and they believed the call had come from this area.

Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending. I will spare you the details, but in case you are curious you can click HERE.

My heart and prayers go out to the family of this young man. Right now the police and FBI do not know anything. Which gives a whole new area of things-I-did-not-know-I-should-worry-about.

And it proves Ms. Schmich was right - get some sleep when you can, because you never really know what is going to cause the next sleepless night.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Valentine's Story

Valentine's Day is a lonely day for the wife of a chef, especially if said day falls on a weekend. Chef left the house early this morning to get ready for a busy brunch as well as a booked dinner service, and I don't expect to see him anytime soon. Still, as I have pointed out before, his long days and crazy hours allows me plenty of time to spend with my other love - Legs. So it's not a complete loss.

With the snow blowing like crazy outside, it was a perfect day for some "beauty parlor". Cozy in the barn, Legs enjoyed his hay net and I zoned out, remembering another Valentine's Day so many years ago.

I think I was about 10 or 11 and in my early years of the Medium Pony Division with Daisy. Mom was working at a stable whose trainer was a young, charismatic guy that I'll call Brett. There were several other pony kids at this stable and together we had quite the little gang going on.

My best friend of all was a boy who I'll call Andy. To quote a famous movie, "we was like peas and carrots." Andy and I shared absolutely everything including a love of our ponies (who HAD to be stabled next to each other), cheese nachos, and practical jokes. Though all in fun, occasionally our shenanigans would get out of hand, as they did on this particular Valentine's weekend.

We were at a show; it was cold and rainy and things were running slowly...not a good situation for a couple of troublemakers like Andy and I. We tried to occupy ourselves by building a course in the barn aisle out of buckets and broomsticks, but after Brett tripped over one of our structures and just about broke his ankle, we were chased from the barn with the promise that we would not see our stirrups for a very long time.

Deflated but not defeated, Andy and I wandered off toward the concession stand plotting various forms of revenge on the evil Brett. After a brief consult over a plate of nachos, the perfect plot was formed.

I should tell you a few details about Brett here. As I mentioned, he was young. He was also good looking and more than a little vain: always dressed to the nines, not a hair out of place, and never more than a week past a good manicure. He also had recently purchased a shiny new black BMW of which he was immensely proud.

Andy's older sister was a high school cheerleader; his mom therefore had a supply of window soap in their suburban for use in the pep rally parades. New Beamer + window soap + a couple of bored peas and carrots with revenge on the brain = nothing good.

In all honesty, we really did not expect Brett to be as angry as he did. We knew that we had gone to far, but at the time did not really understand why. It was just soap. A few hearts, a little holiday well wishing...good clean fun. What's wrong with that?

OK, maybe we could have been a bit more careful. Perhaps we got a bit on the paint job. Maybe we should not have been quite so thorough with the coverage. And maybe, just maybe, we should have asked someone how to spell Valentine.

Many years later it occurred to me just why Brett got so upset when, at the end of a long day, he was forced to drive home in a brand new black BMW with "Happy VD" written in large letters across the back window.

And no, Andy and I did not see our stirrups for a very, very long time.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

♪ ♪ Very Superstitious...♪ ♪...Writing's On The Wallll♪ ♪

I love Stevie Wonder. My favorite quote is by him:

"Ya gots to work with what ya gots to work with."

Some people give me a hard time about it, but when you consider the source it is very inspiring.

Anyhoo...I don't really want to talk about music or inspiration today. I want to talk about superstitions. Specifically, horsey superstitions. I tried to engage my Facebook peeps to share theirs, but got very little response. Which really proves one thing - not only are all those peeps weird, they are liars too! (OK OK...that was harsh. I only posted the request once and I suppose it is possible that not everyone immediately looks for my status updates as soon as they sign on. What an ego blow.)

We all have them. Those weird little beliefs, old-wives'-tales, etc., not to mention the habits and traditions we all have to ensure good luck. Or at least ward off bad luck. Face it, if you have a barn you have at least one horse shoe hung up somewhere - open end up as pictured above so the "luck won't run out." You do. I know you do. Liar.

Natalie over at the Retired Racehorse blog (a must read for anyone in the process of or thinking about re schooling an OTTB, and a darn interesting read for everyone else) did share one that pretty much every horse person I have met believes in strongly: one does not, under any circumstance, change a horse's name. Sure, nicknames or "barn names" may change, but these are really no more than terms of endearment. To actually change a horse's name...well, I don't have any proof of the repercussions of that because I have never heard of it being done.

Funny side story: Mom had a boarder once whose horse was named Double Precision, a wonderful, dark bay warmblood. He was called D.P. in the barn. One of the workers there had a rather thick accent, and somehow the very elegant D.P. became "Dippy". He did not seem to mind, but we had to watch ourselves around his very particular owner.

Once again, I digress. I had a ton of these little habits when I was riding competitively and, because I have chosen this forum to share my weirdness with the world, I will continue to do so now.

  1. Nylons would not get changed if luck was good. My usual competitive attire (for the lower half anyway) consisted of socks, breeches, nylons, boots. If I was winning, the nylons did not get changed or washed, no matter how ratty and ineffectual they became. Lucky for me my luck seldom held too long.

  2. Headstand to turn luck around. If I was having a hard time on a particular horse, I would do a headstand in his/her stall (not while it was occupied of course) in order to turn the tables. Pretty sure that one worked. Or else the resulting head rush just rendered me to loopy to worry about our problems. Whatever.

  3. Horse chestnuts in pocket. I think I got this one from The Black Stallion (didn't Henry carry horse chestnuts in his pocket for luck?). Wherever I got it from, once I heard of it I never went into the ring without them.

  4. The "Lucky Braid". When I rode hunters, I always wanted a Lucky Braid on them. I.e. one braid in a slightly different color than the rest of the mane. Since I did a lot of braiding myself, this was pretty easy. Or, I would just undo one and redo it.

  5. Do NOT wish anyone "good luck". Theatre people have this one too, which is where the term "break a leg" comes from. A generic "Luck" or "Have a Good Time" will do just fine. To wish someone "Good Luck" is a jinx. If anyone has the audacity to wish you good luck: jump off the horse, cross yourself, and spin around 3 times. That should take care of it.

I could go on an on, but I will spare you for now. What got me thinking on this track is Legs and his history of getting sick/hurt when I am 1,000 miles away. Chef and I are back from our trip out west now. I did not post much while we are gone for one very important reason: Legs KNOWS when I am not around, and V and I truly believe that he will deliberately hurt himself because he misses me. Three years ago, while Chef and I were on the same trip, he got kicked in the stifle. Two years ago, he colicked (mild, thank God!). And last year he managed to get a puncture wound in the knee of all places - missed his joint sac by millimeters. V and I walked that pasture for hours and never did figure out how he did it.

Needless to say, when I am planning a trip - even for just a day or two - V and I are very careful not to let Legs know. I do not talk about it. I should not even write about it. I really really thought hard about posting that one while we were gone. But it was the last day of our trip, so I thought we would be OK.

It happened on Monday, the day we were travelling home. The horses had been cooped up a lot due to the weather - just going out in the little paddock. So I guess the freedom was too much for them to handle and they had a "Great Tear Around" the pasture. Ordinarily, I like it when Legs does not act his age (21); it means he feels really really good. But, he can and does get carried away.

We got in really late Monday night, but I ran down to the barn early on Tuesday and was greeted to - swollen right hind!! He was putting full weight on it, no heat, no visible injury, but still...yuk. And worry.

Wrapped it up, a little bute. He's much better now. Wait...I did not say that...(crossing myself and spinning....)


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Intimidation...Or, Karma Comes Knocking

Sorry once again for the posting pause...consistency has never been one of my strong points. Chef and I got a little tired of snow and ice in NC, so we decided to get out of town. Where do a couple of weirdos head when they are tired of shoveling snow? Why, Utah of course!

When we relocated to the mountains several years ago, Chef and I found ourselves faced with a novel concept: an "off season". That is, for 3 or 4 months out of the year, our respective jobs are pretty low key. We needed a winter hobby, and decided to take up snowboarding. Both of us had skied as kids (Chef was on his high school ski team), but snowboarding presented a whole new set of challenges. We both truly believe that if you do not continue to learn, you stagnate, and that is what brings on old age.

Chef and I began frequenting a great little resort just an hour from our house; we've really learned a lot there and enjoy getting out once or twice a week. Its a great release and keeps us active in the cold winter months. But now that we have a few years of boarding under our belts, its nice to head west once in a while to really continue the challenge. And it is with that in mind that I write today's post.

There are a lot of similarities between riding a horse a riding a snowboard; the fact that both acts are referred to as "riding" tickles me. Here are a few others I have noticed;

Balance is key, and one of the hardest basics to master. Just like riding a horse, staying on a snowboard (upright) requires keeping your feet square under you and maintaining your center of gravity on a moving object. Much easier said than done.

Always look ahead. We've all heard "eyes up, heels down," and while heels do come into play on a board (steering purposes), keeping those eyes ahead of you - forward and truly ahead of where you are going - is the only way to get where you want to go. Looking down = falling down, or at the very least ending up somewhere you did not intend to be.

Expensive equipment does not a good rider make. Don't get me wrong. I do strongly believe that quality equipment is necessary to success in any sport a person really wants to take seriously. Quality equipment does also tend to hold up better under hard use and is therefore a better investment in the long run. Still, the best equipment in the world will not make you better if you do not spend time using it.

Investing in lessons is great, but investing in time is priceless. Regular lessons with a good instructor will help you push yourself to improve. However, if your time in any activity is limited to only lessons (unless you are fortunate enough to take them every single day), your rate of improvement will suffer.

Learning to snowboard has given me a perspective that would have come in handy years ago (ain't that always the way with perspective??). Back when I was teaching lessons, I was often flummoxed by my students who struggled with skills that I just took for granted. That and their occasional fear performing exercises that I could do in my sleep. I distinctly remember one lady gripping the mane of her horse, literally white-knuckled, legs locked, body stiff, and that wide-eyed look of sheer terror obvious across the arena, all while just trying to hold a two-point. (I have to say it - this lady was in a $2,300 saddle she had bought on a whim after just two lessons.)

It was perhaps my greatest flaw as an instructor. Because I had been riding - and riding a lot - my entire life, I just did not understand how my students could not "get it". I am a good rider; I am by no means a great rider. But what I lack in skill I make up for in confidence. Confidence that comes from many, many hours in the saddle. I am truly more comfortable on a horse than I am on the ground. This lack of perspective and understanding did not serve me well; it is one of the reasons I ultimately quit teaching, and I doubt the world is a lesser place because of it.

It is only by placing myself in a situation where I am learning and developing new skills myself that I can understand what my students were going through. Here in Utah, surrounded by locals who have literally grown up on a mountain, I really get it. I watch them in awe as they tackle slopes that scare the hell out of me. I see them effortlessly performing maneuvers that I struggle with. Sometimes it frustrates me. Then I realize that they are simply doing on skies and snowboards what I can do on a horse, and I get a sense of peace from that.

Someday, many years from now, that will be me out there - as comfortable on the mountain as I am on a horse. I hope. If I could turn back time - to know then what I know now - perhaps I would have been a better instructor. For the time being, at least I have learned and grown some as a person.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fashion Sense and the Contents of My Console

Note: Have been experiencing technical difficulties due to the weather - sorry for the delay!

Our recent snowstorm has left me housebound with lots of time to think and reflect - always a dangerous thing. I'm pretty active by nature, and being cooped up in my rather small abode does not lead to much good. Luckily, I was saved from self-destruction by a nice long chat with my very dearest friend, Cat. A four hour chat to be exact.

Long before Chef came into my life, Cat proved to me that a non-horse person could in fact live harmoniously with a horse person. When we first met, she told me she had once ridden a pony at the state fair and that was about the extent of her horse experience. Yet there was enough of a connection between us that we became roommates, and remained so for seven years. Face it - any person that you can live with for seven years who is not your relative or spouse is truly a friend for life, a soul sister. That is who Cat is to me, the closest thing to a sister I have ever had.

I think it was the boots that sealed our friendship. When Cat and I first began living together I was still in college and very active on the intercollegiate equestrian team. I was going to school full time, working part time, and riding every moment in between. Often that meant riding early in the mornings before class, and more often than not actually going to class still in my boots and breeches. Lucky for me at the time the "Equestrian Look" was making a comeback in the fashion world and I did not get too many strange looks. In fact, most of my college friendships began in this way:

Random Student: "Hi! Where did you get that darling outfit?"

Me: "Ummm...the tack store."

RS: "Which mall is that at? I don't know that one. It must be new."

Of course, this infatuation with my attire usually only lasted a week or so until RS realized that I came to class like that every day; eventually she would sit close enough to realize that it was more than just a "look". At that point the conversation would shift slightly.

RS: "So, did you go riding today?"

Me: "Ummm....yeah."

RS: "So what, do you ride EVERY day??"

Me: "Ummm... yeah."

Random Student would eventually move to a seat out of odor range, and such was the end of that friendship.

Cat was different right from the start. Although she too shared a fascination with my wardrobe (and did actually borrow my boots from time to time because "they would be soooo cute with this outfit!!), she really made an attempt to understand my lifestyle. She would watch Spruce Meadows with me and made a genuine effort to comprehend what was going on. Once she cleaned my tack and ironed my show clothes for me because I had a term paper due (overdue) and was leaving the next day at zero-dark-thirty for a show. That is friendship you can't put a price tag on.

Still, some aspects of my horse life were just beyond her. One incident in particular I remember. We were in my car and she was digging in my console looking for a pen or some such normal thing. Suddenly she pulled out an object, and the conversation that followed went something like this:

Cat: "What the heck is this thing?"

Me: "A hoof pick"

Cat: "A what?"

Me: "Hoof pick."

Cat: "What do you do with it?"

Me: "You clean out a horse's hoofs with it."

Cat: "Why would you need to do that?"

Of course, it had never occured to me that a person would NOT know that a horse's hooves needed regular cleaning. At this point in my life, I was only beginning to understand that my habits seemed somewhat weird to those who were not, despite their parents' proclamations, actually raised in a barn. Still, her next question took me by surprise:

Cat: "Why is it in your console?"

I mean, who doesn't keep a hoof pick in their car's console? Perhaps there was something to this "horse people are weird" thing. Throughout the rest of our journey, and many more later on, Cat conducted an in depth investigation of my car's contents.

Cat: "What is this?"

Me: "Boot pull."

Cat: "What does it...never mind. Is this a hairnet???"

Me: "Yes."

Cat: "What do you need a hairnet for?"

Me: "How do you keep your hair neat under your helmet?"

Cat: "Ummm...I don't!"

Me: "Too bad. A helmet would really accentuate the riding boots you are wearing, but only if your hair were properly contained."

And so on and so forth. Let's just say Cat learned a great deal of her horse knowledge by rummaging through the console of my car.

Still, the years have passed, and miles are now between us. Yet the strange and wonderful friendship we developed for whatever reason survives - enough to warrent four hour chats from time to time.

And when we do get together, she still wants to borrow my boots. And I have to admit, they do look pretty cute.