Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Schooling Adventures

(from Graduate Riding School Blog)

Pics coming soon :)

So Sat night I had a very relaxed very nice ride as the sun set. Perfect summery temperature. Hung out @ the barn for a while afterwards cleaning tack, pulling Si's mane, disassembling windows (you'd be amazed the random things you can find to do at the barn :) n other fun and games before going home to sleep. Wonderful sleep :)

Sunday I was very disappointed to not be going to GV to play -- one of my favs, but I knew Si just wasn't ready. So decided to go to a random schooling show instead. I don't want to passport her this year, so seriously limits us as to the quality of h/j/d shows we can do (don't need to passport till T for eventing :). Look around and find one not too far away, super-cheap. Both engl and western divisions. hmmmmm tricky. In my experience shows that try to run both generally do neither well, but sobeit. Jumpers start at 2, so plan to be there at 1. Load @ 11:30. How very civilized is that? hahaha and my amazing supergroom Nicole agreed to come yet again (even before knowing of the impressive load time) so met us at the barn shortly before it was time to load.

Pony loads herself. Just strolls right on, no issue, no hesitation. Ok good start :) Pull in and find parking waaaaaayyyyy at the end of the field, but right next to K who's there to play in the western division. woohoo! And of course our two horses know each other well, so Sienna comes off the trailer, sees him and figures "oh good, we're going hacking" and chills right out. Sweet.

Go to register and get "how fast can you tack up?" ummm very fast, but not about to panic over this. Why? "Well they're on the last hunter class, jumpers will be starting right away. You have probably 15 minutes." uh ok. So they're way ahead of schedule. Np. Skip the first class and register to start in the 2nd. 15 people in the class so that should buy me extra time (esp as it's a solid 10 min walk back to the trailer).

Get back to trailer and tack up; pony's still super-quiet. I was expecting a slight personality change once I got on, but no. Go to w/u ring and she's lazy enough that I was starting to worry about her. Jumped her a little bit and she was good, just lazy. Thing is, Si doesn't very often do lazy. As I'm contemplating this I hear "jumpers will start in one hour." Excuse me??? Yeah was not amused at that. Dismount. Let pony graze while I watch K clean up in the western ring. hahaha No interpretive horsemanship today -- she actually chose to follow the prescribed pattern. How boring is that? >;-P Head back to the trailers for a bit. I'm sure Sienna was thinking it was the easiest day ever!

Since we had some time to kill, somebody (K maybe?) had the brilliant idea that N should ride Iroc since she's never ridden western before. hahaha so in borrowed gear of all types -- including western chaps -- they're off! hahaha All sorts of new experiences here -- from mounting from the ground (how do you ride for *that* long w/o ever mounting from the ground?!?!?!) to the western jog and lope. Although if I had to guess, I'd say she'll be sticking with English :) But now at least she can say she's ridden western. Next - sidesaddle! And as lazy as Si was being I was awfully close to letting her jump her around too -- except I know my pony well enough not to trust it to last...

Fast forward a couple hours and they're finally getting ready for the jumpers. Go re-warm-up my pony who's still remarkably apathetic about the whole thing. Except one horse who she absolutely despised for some reason I could never figure out. Any time she came remotely near us Si'd have pinned ears and be making witchy-mare-faces. No idea what that was about, but she couldn't care less about the other horses; even when the western gamers were over running around in all their bright sparkles. Hopped her over the w/u fence a couple times, but she just wasn't involved in the whole thing. So I asked Nicole to put my jacket over the fence to give her something to look at -- and that helped. Got a nice bascule w/ her knees up around her ears :) hahaha that woke her up a bit. And got a "is she an eventer?" from one of the coaches standing near Nicole. hahaha gotta love it. Remove the jacket so as not to scare anybody else.

ugh - but speaking of scary. This was a *low* level schooling show. Very low level. So while I was amused, I wasn't entirely surprised to hear several of the riders gathered around the course map trying to figure out what the differences between the three different jumper classes (Table A, Table C, and Power & Speed) were. Was debating whether I should explain it to them, but my opinion hadn't been asked AND the definition of each was written on the course map (like I said, low level) so I was just staying quiet. But what really got me was when their coach came up and they asked her and she clearly didn't have a clue. Was trying hard to make up an educated answer but was so far off it wasn't even funny. That really gets me. For one thing, if you're coaching students who are competing, you should know what you're sending them out to do. And for two, if your student actually manages to stump you on something (and it happens to the best of us :) the correct answer is "that's an interesting question, let me find out the answer and get back to you." Just making something up not only doesn't help, it actually makes things worse. Blah. Ok end of rant.

Back to our regularly scheduled story :) Turns out I'm not even on the class list, so N gets me stuck in at the end. Lots of time to kill. Finally our turn. Not much in the way of interesting jumps. 1 gate (a good thing, Si needs gate practice). A couple bright colours. But nothing terribly exciting. Except one fence. It's a wall on one side (typical painted red brick) but on the other side it's an ugly grey panel, slightly sloped so it should theoretically ride well, but with the way the light was hitting it, blindingly bright. And this was the first fence. *sigh*. Enter the ring just as there's static and whathaveyou on the loudspeakers -- right beside us. So suddenly we're dancing sideways. Not new to riding a green horse so took as long as possible to get around and salute the judge, letting Si see as much as possible. But she only got to see the scary grey wall sideways...

Turn towards our first fence and the battle begins. "Don't think we should go there." "Comeon Si, it's fine, just jump it" "Nope, it's gonna eat me." "It's really not." "I don't want to go that way." "Well you're not allowed to go around it or backwards." "How do you feel about up?"

Seriously - that was the conversation. Now I know this particular horse reasonably well, and usually when she sees something that scares her like that I can't get her w/in four strides of it. I got her to the last one here, so I was happy about that. She knows she has to hold her line, so doesn't even try to run out. Prob is, if you can't go backwards or sideways and don't want to go forwards what's left? *sigh* Apparently the standing on the hindlegs got a reasonable reaction from the crowd. But again, it wasn't malicious (with this horse it has never been malicious) -- just very very concerned about what was in front of her. So I let her see it and tried again. Took a ride and a half and it wasn't pretty, but we got over it. She jumped everything else, but frantic. Very concerned, very upset. Not so good :( Poor pony.

On the plus side, she chilled the second we left the ring. Ok so she's not tooooooo stressed then (when she's really stressed there is no off). So the next course is set and I pushed my way in to be about the third one in. Everybody standing around, nobody going, I'm going! hahaha didn't want her to wait too long before going back in the ring. Same first fence, still hesitant, but went over it on the first try and less panicked. Jumped clear. Still frantic (brought her back to trot a few times in an attempt to get her to chill :) but much better. Apparently the comments on the sidelines were along the lines of "guess she's not going for speed?" hahaha lets see would the "woah" every other stride be your first clue? I want her to have speed when we get to the 1.2m classes -- don't need or want it yet! Right now I want calm and confident. So much better but still not good. Closer to ridable though.

So by now I'm hot and tired and would really much rather just go home. H/J shows are my least favourite of all the options. But I knew she really needed another round. So fine. One more. This time I slide my way into the very front "can I go in?" "ummm you're not on my list." "that's ok, can I go anyways?" "sure." hahaha love it. In I go. The numbers weren't even moved around yet which was momentarily disconcerting but ok. Jumped around clear and while not quiet, certainly calmer. Didn't feel any of the franticness (how did that pass my spell check - is it really a word?) from her as I did in the first rounds. Definitely more confident too -- still required a fairly strong ride, but nowhere near the determination of the first two. So I deemed that that was good. Significantly better. And we could go home on that one :) Si was all happy and proud of herself.

So in the end a positive experience. And was a good thing we went, even if it wasn't anywhere near as much fun as GV would've been. And *sigh* I realize I have to do a lot more of this to get her to realize new places are not scary and you don't need an hour to decide a ring is ok to ride in. Was impressed she loaded herself to go home too. Wasn't expecting that. Usually the lure of wonderful green grass way outweighs the idea of going home :) So @ least that was good *g*

Now... What's next? :)

#FridayFlash 37 - A Summer's Day

Yikes - it's been a couple flash-less weeks! That's just so wrong. Thanks for sticking with me :) Had a ton of fun with this one. Let me know what you think!

Cheers :)

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A Summer's Day

It was the kind of sultry heat that makes you question your sanity. Now I love summer, but even I had to admit this was pushing it a bit. But since I had deemed it entirely too hot to work I was enjoying it as the summer equivalent of a snow day, sitting in my lawn chair, a drink in hand, enjoying the whisper of a breeze I imagined I felt. I had a good imagination, for the leaves hung lifeless as there was not even a hint of a breeze in the air.

Such was the day that I wasn't even phased when the figure materialized in front of me. Just a mirage. A trick of light and heat wavering and a vibrant imagination. I blinked a few times to clear the vision, and even shook my head as if to clear the fog from my brain -- although how I thought that might work I've no idea. Made sense at the time though. And yet the mirage remained... And solidified... Appearing as a wizard -- complete with long robes and pointy hat.

And that was what convinced me he must be real. Because not even in my imagination would I condemn somebody to wear long hot robes on a day like today. I guess Disney got it right after all. My mind drifted to the unlikeliness of that before I clued in to the fact that the mirage was speaking. To me.

"Carrie, you have to come with me." Ummm no, methinks not. I raised an eyebrow at the apparition speaking to me. "We need your help. The world needs your help!" he implored earnestly. Must be real; even Disney scripts aren't that bad. I would certainly have written him a better script. I continued to stare at him, doped by the heat and particularly disinclined to rush off and save the world. I allowed my disbelief to show plainly on my face.

"Surely you've noticed the temperature going up," he started, "even the winters have not been cold these last few years, and now, in spring, you’re roasting."

"Global warming, yeah I've heard the story," I finally acknowledged him, wondering at my sanity for talking to a mirage. "I'm sort of enjoying it," I mentioned, refusing to be drawn into the doom and gloom ‘we're destroying the world’ argument.

"Global warming yes, but not due to anything your kind has done."

Well at least I could agree with that, "so what is the cause?" I asked, my curiosity finally sufficiently piqued.

"Dragons."

Uh huh. Well it was fun while it lasted.

"I take it your mother never told you of your heritage?" he asked.

Bemused by the change of topic I couldn't resist playing along, really - what else did I have to do? "My heritage? My mother's a writer, my grandmother was a teacher, my great-grandmother was a housewife," I recited; "nothing terribly exciting I'm afraid."

"They are indeed all those things, but so much more. Your great-grandmother was a queen, and your grandmother after her. Your mother," I thought I heard some bitterness in his tone, "rejected the throne to live a mortal life. And she refused to allow you any access at all."

"Yeah well my mother's a pretty smart woman. If she wants nothing to do with your world, there's probably a reason," but his words rang true and even as I dismissed him, I couldn't help but wonder. There were no pictures of her as a child -- destroyed in a house fire. Or that was the story. But all of them? Then again, was that really less likely than a talking mirage from another world?

"Carrie, your grandmother passed on several years ago. Without a direct heir the throne has fallen to the council. Their bickering has lead to war. None of which would've sent me to you, but now their war is spilling into your world. And since the dorns have awoken the dragons, only one of royal blood can retire them. And this must be done before they roast your world; if your world falls, so does ours."

"Ok, so let me see if I've got this straight," I started, intense heat entirely forgotten. "You want me to go with you to some other world, location yet to be disclosed, where I am no less than royalty, to stop a war and while I'm at it, put some dragons to sleep? That about it?"

"Essentially."

Sure why not -- what else have I got to do? I thought before warily nodding my assent. "Here, put this on," he told me, handing me a robe very much like his. I felt proud of myself for stifling the groan at the thought, but when I put it on was pleasantly surprised to discover its cooling effect. It was like wearing an air-conditioner set to the perfect temperature.

"Do I get a hat too?" I asked with a grin.

"A wizard must earn their hat," he told her seriously. "Hold this," he told me as he handed me what appeared to be an average stick. I glanced at it ever so briefly and the world shimmered. Again with the mirage effect; these guys needed some variety in their transitions! When my sight cleared I found myself in a world that in some ways, very much resembled my own; or rather, my own as it might've been before technology. A suburban environment, lots of houses with trees out front, a road of dirt or clay - I wasn't sure which. The street lights were subtly different, but I wasn't sure how. Two things struck me immediately. The colours - everything was painted vibrant colours. And the stillness; it was midday, but there was not a soul to be seen and not a sound to be heard. Eerie.

"So now what?" I asked, my voice breaking the stillness to the great concern of my wizard guide who silenced me with a wave of his hand.

"Nobody must know you're here," he told me.

"It's not like they're going to recognize my voice," I whispered back at him.

"Of course they will," he told me, "it's in our blood to know our queen. Any who see or hear you will instinctively know who and what you are. And while most would consider it an honour to meet you, there are those who would greatly prefer you never set foot in this land."

"And those are the ones you brought me here to confront," I commented. It was not a question.

"Can you feel the heat rising?" he asked and I nodded. "Put your hood up -- the dragons are near. Your skin will be scorched in seconds if you're not covered." And suddenly the air-conditioned cloak became so much more than a luxury.

I felt the shadow before I saw it; looking up I got my first sign of the creatures that were heating the world. Massive and beautiful in the way of pure power, the dragons exhaled steam with every breath. The air became too intense to breath. And then the creatures saw us. Faster than I would ever have believed possible the lead one swept down towards me, steam turning to flame. I held up my arm to protect my head. A futile gesture but the only instinct offered me. Seconds later when I registered that I was still alive, I cautiously lifted my head to discover that the stick I still held had created a shield of sorts. I was in a bubble that appeared to be holding off the dragon’s flame.

Ever so briefly I drew my eyes from the massive creatures to find the wizard who’d brought me here staring at me with an unreadable expression. I glanced back just in time to see the two dragons land, oh so lightly, beside me.

“Lower your shield Highness; no harm will come to you from us.” The words echoed inside my head.

I lowered my arm, and with it my shield at which point the wizard sprang towards me, “Carrie no!” He raised his staff, but the dragon’s flame held him off.

“Don’t hurt him.” I commanded. The voice I used rang with authority; where it came from I’ve no idea, but it was a voice to be obeyed. The flames instantly ceased. The wizard threw a shield around us both, which should’ve made me feel safer, but somehow I knew it was a bad idea. “Drop it,” I told him.

“Carrie, you don’t know what you’re dealing with here.” The look I gave him held the power and knowledge of generations. Power and knowledge I knew nothing about, but was only just starting to feel. He lowered the shield and stepped back. Still watching but silent.

I was in charge now.

And had absolutely no idea what to do next.

Teaching and Learning - all sorts of fun :)

(from GRS Blog)

Should I be worried when my coach decides to make my lesson a variation of the one I taught the night before? hahaha

So last night I had a student who just had all sorts of lightbulbs going off :) hahaha they had an awesome trot in their flat work and then jumping were working on a gymnastic exercise where there are four fences (starting all parallel to each other) and each time they go through I change the angle of the fences so it goes from a line like | | | | to \ / \ / -- obviously the second requires a whole lot more skill to hold the line and keep the horse straight through the center. It's a favourite of mine because if you just come in at the end, it looks nearly impossible (should've seen the reactions from the hunter peoples!), but if you've been there for the build-up it usually goes really well and is an excellent confidence boost. So then they jumped around a normal course of larger-than-usual height using their new-found skills and it was brilliant. I was pretty excited about it :) N I was standing on the ground *g* hahaha

So fast forward a few hours and my coach is in to give me a lesson. Our flatwork was also excellent (woohoo!). Did have a bit of a language barrier at one issue though that made me laugh. Has me on a 10-15m circle in trot to the right, then asks me to bring the shoulders out (pretty standard), then bring the haunches out (umm ok sure :). Then move sideways till the circle is closer to 20m. As I'm doing this, he asks me what movement it is. Actually took me a second to get my head around that (we were moving random body parts all over the circle today!) but ok even though we were technically on a right circle, we were bent left, haunches left, moving left. (still with me?). So therefore, we're in half-pass. The weirdest setup for half-pass ever, but hey why not? Why not? Well because apparently half-pass doesn't exist in the German system *g* Oops. So he asks me to explain/define traverse/renverse/half-pass and the differences between them. Which I did, sort of wondering all the while if it was a trick question... But no, legit question. hahaha he explained afterwards that he sometimes asks people to do these things only to realize they don't have a clue what he's talking about. ummmmm no, not new here. hahaha I may not be able to accomplish it, but I'll at least understand what I'm supposed to be accomplishing. So apparently half-pass, as I know it, is "full traverse" in his world. With traverse (as I know it) being little traverse or half-traverse (followed by rapid-fire german that I missed entirely). Ummmm okidoke. Regardless, my pony was an absolute superstar *g* And yeah - it'll be another three or four years before we'll be able to replicate that :) But I was still pretty impressed with her.

Now it comes time to jump. He surveys the ring to decide what we're doing. "Well this looks interesting," he tells me w/ a clear question, knowing fully well the odds are good anything that unusual was my creation *g* So I explained how the exercise started and then how I changed it which of course was all it took for him to get it "oh ok, forcing them to hold their line down the center." Yup, pretty much all there is to it. N you can see he considered it for us for a second or so, but really, that exercise is an awful lot of work to set up and manipulate. So new plan. One fence. @ X (facing B/E). "Let's see how much fun we can have with one fence." hmmmm that sounds scarily like something I might say. To which my appropriate reply was "uh oh." N he looks at me w/ a half-smile "now why would you say that?" "Well because I've taught this lesson >;-P And I know exactly what it means to use just one fence. It means it's going to be far more challenging than even the most complex course and it's going to have to be perfect." "That's about right."

Sheesh. My students would've gotten a kick out of it.

For us it started with jump it straight, halt on a straight line, turn on the forehand, repeat. Ok, no problem. Then the fun part. Ride a canter 8, angling the fence each time -- and he draws in the dirt the angle he wants it on. So I learned my horse holds her line remarkably well (I knew this -- I've been training her to do so all along). That if she's going to fall off the line, it'll always be to the left (also knew this - that's still a work-in-progress). And that she can defy the laws of physics and jump from insane angles, in stride, that shouldn't even be physically possible (didn't know this!). hahaha I was pretty impressed by that last one. Overshot the turn and came in at waaaayyyy too steep an angle n she was just like "jump sideways? ummm ok Laur..." and off we went. The left drift is a bit of an issue though - really need to work on that one *sigh*. Anyways -- took a couple laps to get it consistently perfect but then she was absolutely amazing. Moving forward to the jump but landing in balance and actually letting me bend her on the turns so as to stay in balance for the next one. Pretty sweet :)

I was just amused that for the 2nd time, my lesson was a "next step up" from one I had just taught a day or two before :) Great minds n all that.

Ok off to teach again :)

Long weekend fun :)

So I am absolutely loving summer! Esp as it's still May :) Hoping it sticks around!!!

Had a blast teaching @ Caledon yesterday. Perfect weather! (Distinctly recall wearing a snow-suit at that clinic two years ago!) I was in dressage world this year with a very helpful and eager scribe. Had really great students who all made a serious effort and a significant difference between their first test and
their second. Also lots of really intelligent questions that I was impressed by. Always a lot of fun to teach when you see those kind of results :) That whole instant gratification thing. hahaha it's what makes clinics so much fun :) That and spending the day in the sun and the chance afterwards to see and socialize with people I don't get to see nearly enough. Def a good thing :)

Gotta say though after three days back in the horse world, going to the office this am was brutal. I seriously have to get myself a farm.

Awesome ride today -- super dressage pony. AND amazing hunter BO dug me a ditch :) woohoo!!!! I asked permission to build one on Sun and she ok'd it, and then went one step further and found somebody with a tractor to dig it for me. Sweet! Needless to say Sienna didn't want to go anywhere near it *sigh* But we'll start working on that tomorrow.

So went for n icecream walk this eve. It was wonderfully summery out :) And there was some huge issue going on a bridge over the highway as well as lights out at the intersection -- two poor cops in full gear were standing in the heat directing insane amounts of traffic. Less than a block from DQ. So we picked them up some lemonade slushies :) hahaha 10 lanes of traffic were paused briefly so they could get the drinks. They seemed pretty grateful -- was really cute. The little things in life eh?

"Remember when you were five and everything was possible? Happy fifth birthday." Just heard that on the tv that I'm only half watching. No idea what the commercial was for, but liked the thought (says she who celebrated her 12th bday last summer :) hahaha

And speaking of "anything's possible" -- I'm going on a surprise vacation this summer. N am very excited about it *g* My mum and I are going on a trip, but she's planning it and won't give me any details beyond what days to book off work :) Oh and a question as to whether my passport is up-to-date (which doesn't necessarily mean anything since she's smart enough to ask that even if I don't need a passport -- I come by my surprise planning skills honestly *g*). hahaha so... guesses?

Alright off to do something useful. Or the exact opposite of. Night!

Tennis anybody?

(from GRS Blog)

Had an entertaining hack today. Just going for a walk so superpony could stretch and relax a bit after the awesome xc school yesterday. All was well. Till I saw we were heading up to a very active tennis court. Hmmmm could be entertaining :) So no problems with the kids playing. Yelling, bouncing about, throwing/bouncing/ hitting balls, swinging rackets. All good. She looked at them but really didn't care all that much. But when we got to the adult court where they were simply playing a tennis game. Still ball bouncing/racket swinging, but these ones were absolutely terrifing! The difference? Squeaky shoes! Yes that's right, everytime they squeaked she grew taller till it was eventually too much and she left. Fast. hahaha

Anyways just thought it was cute.

A leap of faith...

(from GRS Blog)

So took a couple horses up to Cedar Run to school XC w/ David Wilding Davis this weekend.

We started out with a hunter-world convert and his hunter-world rider. Their first "official" XC outting. To put this in perspective, it was the second time ever they'd ridden anywhere that has a hill. Any kind of hill. And Cedar Run is in the Blue Mountains *g*. The horse was a little high so I took Sienna over as well so I could watch and help the supremely nervous rider through the inevetible meltdown. She bravely stuck it out, even though I'm sure absolutely every instinct was screaming that this was a bad idea. Relaxed a little when the first exercise involved walking over a pole. So far within her abilities it was laughable :) And when they started to jump and her horse behaved... exactly as he always does :) Then she could relax a little more. And so on. As is typical of David's clinics everything was very relaxed and very positive. And by the end they were confidently tackling lines of multiple fences and a PT level XC hogsback. Woohoo!

When I was reasonably certain she was starting to enjoy herself (or, at very least, wasn't about to bail -- the enjoy part of things might've come slightly later :), Sienna and I departed to return to the trailer.

Well Miss Sienna was not happy about that. Screaming every stride all the way back (it's a LONG walk) and once we got 3/4 of the way rearing and just generally being ignorant *sigh* Fortunately when we did get back, while still tense, she relaxed somewhat as other horses were there as well. So tack up and head out and horse promptly goes to sleep. hahaha guess that means I brought the quiet horse :) Only three people in our group, which was amazing. A PT level group - theoretically. But really we had Alyssa (names changed for the simple fact of I don't know the riders well enough to be putting their real names on the internet w/o permission! :) who was @ PT and getting ready to upgrade to T, Kara who was a reasonably novice rider well mounted on a nice trusty horse -- both of whom were appropriate for E/PT level, and myself with my pony who can probably jump the moon, but has been xc fewer times than I have fingers. hahaha Should be in E but I wanted her to learn about PT type stuff :) And really, I always prefer to be at the bottom of the group -- the top is boring.

W/u was very relaxed (who am I kidding? the whole day was relaxed :) -- we started over the same pole the PE did. Albeit we got to trot over it first instead of walk *g* hahaha Jumped a bunch of random fences all well and good. Got to a trakehner -- low and inviting but I opted out given Sienna's recent ditch games. Figured it was a
case of pick your battles -- and pick ones you can win. I wanted to deal w/ the down bank thing and ditches if there was a good baby one (there wasn't). So we sat that one out, and let the other two jump it a couple times.

Went down to play in the water -- Si's a water superstar, so no problem there! There was a fairly massive brush fence hidden in the woods off a curve - so through the water, half a dozen strides, over the brush. ummm sure :) Decided I'd follow Alyssa's T horse - she was reasonably confident he'd jump it and I thought Si might require the encouragement. Cantered through the water (woohoo! Have never managed to convince her to do that before). A's horse chipped in and popped it and then disappeared down the other side. Sienna was like "that fence just ATE that horse" and hesitates, but I was expecting that (learned to watch out for it in the w/u!) and was in a position to convince her to keep going. hahahah might very well be one of the biggest jumps I've ever done. Not the fence itself -- it'd be big for PT but small for T. Maybe in the 3'3 range. But the fact that she cleared it by an insane amount, entirely in stride, was pretty impressive. Awesome bascule. We were not going anywhere *near* that fence. Actually rode beautifully although made me laugh in the air out of surprise :) hahaha WISH I had that one on film. Man. Ah
well. Did not end up repeating that one Did jump her over another brush fence that was much more open and inviting -- that one also rode well, without nearly the drama. Kara's horse was the only one who actually did it properly with just the right amount of enthusiasm *g*

Then we headed down to the woods where there was a bank. Two of them in fact -- roughly facing each other, so you could go down one, three strides, up the other. Or you could go up or down either one and straight. We're told to trot off it -- sure np. I stick Si right behind Alyssa's horse (hey I'm not new here :) in hopes that the T horse might lead the E horse down. Yeah not-so-much. Her horse went beautifully. Mine stopped and reversed at top speed. Wanted nothing to do with it *sigh*. So with memories of the last clinic I asked David if he'd mind if I dismounted and lead her off. "Absolutely, excellent idea!" and as he helped me get the rein undone (so I'd have one really long one) he goes on to tell everybody why it's a good idea to school nervous greenbeans in hand so they don't get thumped
on if they take a flying leap and launch the rider (thereby never wanting to do it again). So I tried to lead her down and even then she was *really* hesitant -- unusual for her. But with me in front and David behind waving a twig (it hardly counted as a stick at her) she was convinced to jump off. Well flying leap would be a toned- down description of what she did. With the double length of the reins AND being ahead of her, I still had to run so that she wouldn't get caught in the mouth when she landed -- a ridiculous amount ahead of where she should've stepped off (this bank was maybe 3' -- if that!) Gotta admit, I was rather glad I wasn't on her when she did that *g* So "6 more times!" David tells me (while the others are
practicing going off both this one and the other one). By the 6th time she's only taking a small leap. Not exactly lowering herself gracefully, but not the scary launch from the beginning. Ok, get back on and try it mounted. And beg Alyssa for a lead again -- hey, any advantage I can get when schooling a greenbean. hahaha well we went off -- very close to the original leap. hahaha brutal. Gravity saved me -- in that even though I got launched, I got launched the same distance and speed as my stirrups so when we came landed I could go straight into a 2pt and stay off her back. Let her run a bit and then came back and did it again w/o a lead. Better. Not good, precisely. But better.

So we're coming back from that one and David suggests I take her off the other one (it's on my way at this point). Sure why not. Oh yeah -- new bank. Looks exactly like the last one, but evidently not to her. *sigh* Same reaction but when she decides to run backwards she slides down the hill. Classic. Try it with a lead. No go. The other two riders are being remarkably patient -- didn't even roll their eyes when David suggested I hop off and lead her again. They were practicing jumping down one and up the other by this point, but even still everybody knew we were hanging out there just for my horse. So I lead her off. This time only took two tries. Hop back on, grab a lead from Alyssa and down we go. Not bad. About on par with our last attempt off the first bank. So go do it again w/o a lead. It was perfect. Literally perfect. Lowered herself exactly the way they're supposed to and cantered away quietly. No drama at all. I was ecstatic!

Sweet. We're done. Head back out of the woods up to our next set of fences.

Another bank *sigh* Oh goody. And I'm warring with myself between do we leave it on the absolutely perfect jump we just had, or do we get in as much bank practice as physically possible. I let David be the deciding factor -- without raising the question, when he said walk her up and off that bank that's what I did. Or tried to. This bank was set up so you can run on and jump off (up a ramp to the edge) or going the other way jump on, stride, jump off. We took the ramp route, following our now good friend Alyssa. Hit the end and shot backwards all the way to the bottom of the ramp. David suggests getting off and leading again, but her behaviour was *bad* I didn't want to reward it with getting off. It's one thing to do that with a
horse who genuinely doesn't get it, but I'm not getting off one who's actually being rude. And I know she's concerned about it, but running backwards is just not allowed. So I walk her back up to about the half way point, where she stops again, but has at least realized backwards isn't allowed. When Kara's horse comes trotting
by -- and as he passed, Si followed. So I let her :) And down the bank we went. No problem! Surprised Kara a little *g* but she was kewl with it. Now the easy route (PT) through this bank complex has a fence, about 3-4 strides before the ramp, 2-3 strides up/on the ramp, down, 2 strides, vertical. We, of course, were just going up
the ramp and down the bank. The others were introducing the first fence, then quietly up the ramp and off. So they're getting very good at that and we've *almost* got the hang of off without being out of control. They start adding in the last item, and we get to put in the first. We jump the first fence and land so fast there's not a chance. Abort mission. No way I'm running up a ramp at that speed. Good way to get me launched! Circle around and try again. Trot the first fence, serious breaks and determination get us back to a trot at the top and off the bank and flying away. Sweet. Still alive! Do it again with a little less chaos. By this time Kara's done and hanging out and Alyssa has moved on to the on, across, off,
rolltop combo going the T route. I circled in and let Si jump the third fence all on its own and then went around to put it all together... Over the first, back to trot (a whole 2 strides from the bank), down the bank, two strides, over the vert. She did it! Under control even. And was oh-so-proud of herself! As was I :) hahaha and *that* is the whole reason I go to David's clinics. In about half an hour we went from rearing and running backwards to confidently riding a combination. Not half bad :)

Then Si finally got a bit of a break as we went for a walk while Alyssa jumped some of the training fences (corner and coffin). I felt kind of bad for Kara since she was the only one who was actually AT the level the group was supposed to be but was waiting first for me and the banks and then for Alyssa to do the T stuff. But she
seemed totally kewl with this. Every time I spoke to her she was smiling and happy. And was absolutely thrilled that she got to lead my horse :) hahaha too cute. So we jumped a few more little things on the way home and we were done for the day :)

Awesome clinic :)

The ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe!

Didn't write this. Wish I had :) Enjoy!

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The ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe!

Ingredients:
Frequent flier coupons
One medium paperclip (not plastic coated)
One movie ticket stub

Now remember that chocolate-chip cookies are supposed to be a nice relaxing kind of food, so the first thing you'll want to do to make them is to go somewhere where you can kick back and relax. Ecuador is good, so use your frequent-flier miles to pick up a round-trip ticket there. The stewardess will hand you a couple of bags of peanuts, but don't eat them, since we're going to need those for the cookies.

You'll find yourself sitting next to an attractive woman who teaches archaeology at Cornell; she'll explain that she's going to Ecuador to try to find her father -- a biochemist by trade, but he dabbles in archaeology as a hobby -- who went down there to find the lost pyramid of Sesquichachloride, well known in archaeological circles as the fabled storehouse of the god Valhequesal who, according to myth, rode down from the skies on a pillar of fire bringing with him a wealth of powerful but somewhat failure-prone magical devices that, according to the priests of the day, were pretty darn all-around nifty.

Now her father, after examining several stone tablets depicting the god Valhequesal, discovered that he is always shown wearing a curious bracelet on his left wrist that looks surprisingly like a digital watch, leading him to the conclusion that Valhequesal did actually exist, but he was really an advanced space traveler with comparatively poor taste in accessories, and that the lost pyramid of Sesquichachloride must contain his spacecraft and untold other devices from his world. About this time, the stewardess will bring by the main meal and you'll want to be sure to save the little packets of salt and butter that come with your meal -- the woman next to you will be too worried about her father to eat and so you'll want to take her packet of butter and go ahead and keep her crackers too.

When you get off the plane in Ecuador, just go out to the front of the airport and try to locate a cab. There won't be any, for some reason, so you'll go inside to inquire about where transportation might be found and some guy will stumble against you and when you look at him, you'll notice that he's been stabbed in the left side and is bleeding pretty profusely. With a weakly shaking hand, he'll thrust the key to a safety deposit box into your hand, gasp something about "be careful of the poison ivy" and expire messily on the floor of the terminal. You'll decide that maybe waiting for a cab is the better part of valor and head back outside -- on the way, though, be sure to stop at the concession stand and ask for a half-pound of chocolate chips. The clerk will measure the appropriate amount and put it in a bag for you. Be sure your movie ticket stub is visible in the handful of change you pull from your pocket to pay her. She'll reach down under the counter and then surreptitiously drop a roll of microfilm into your bag along with the chocolate chips, then hand you the bag, saying, "On the house."

At this point, speed is of the essence -- get back outside the concourse before a swarthy man with a mustache strides up to the snack shop holding a movie ticket stub. Moments later he and the clerk will run out the door looking for you, just as the woman who sat next to you on the plane drives up in her rental car and offers you a lift. Cheerfully accept, and hop in before the man with the mustache flips off the safety on his gun. If all goes well, you'll both be out of the parking lot and on your way before he has time to squeeze off more than one shot -- and he'll miss on the first one anyway and the woman driving the car will think it was just another vehicle backfiring. She'll be kind enough to offer to let you stay in her hotel room, but she'll need to stop off at the bank first to take care of a little business. While she's talking with the bank representative, you casually wander back to the safety deposit boxes and open the one that matches the key. In it, you'll find a fair-sized paper bag containing bags of flour, sugar, baking soda and a large bottle of calamine lotion; take this along with the folded piece of paper lining the bottom of the safety deposit box. Go back to the lobby just as she's getting ready to leave.

Once the two of you get back into the car and start driving, unfold the piece of paper -- it's a map leading to somewhere deep in the Ecuadorian jungle. Look more closely at it just as your companion notices the map, gasps, nearly runs the car off the road, and exclaims "That's my father's handwriting!" From this point on, it's pretty straightforward -- just trek through the jungle with her for a few days, evade the occasional drug lord and that guy with the mustache, locate the hidden temple and descend down a long pole into its depths, and locate the treasure room.

There'll be a large golden idol in the northwest corner with huge rubies for eyes, a golden bowl in his lap, and a bird's nest on his head. Put the butter from the plane into the bowl and stir until softened. Get the gold cup to the left of the idol and add two cupfuls of sugar to the butter, stir until creamed. Add two eggs from the next, one swiss army knife spoonful of baking soda and two-and-a-half cups of flour, being sure to remove the large plastic bag of cocaine that was hidden in the bag of flour first. Mix well, add the peanuts from the flight and the chocolate chips from the bag, pocketing the microfilmed list of drug contacts first, and place by swiss army knife spoonfuls onto the silver tray propped up against the back of the idol.

Once the cookie batter is on the tray, your companion will ask to lick the bowl, but in doing so will bump against the gold torch held in the idol's right hand and there will be a low grinding sound as the stone block that forms the doorway to the drug smugglers' lab slides out of the way and you'll see her father chained to a lab table being forced to refine drugs for the smugglers. While they're having a beautiful and happy reunion, pick up a strange device from the outer room and bring it into the lab where there's better light for a closer inspection. Be sure to bring the cookie sheet too and set them next to each other on the lab table. Your companion and her father will be trying to figure out how to get him unchained while you note that the device in question is clearly of extraterrestrial manufacture and appears to be some sort of highly powerful laser cutting device -- except that it shows signs of being dropped, breaking the actuator wire and misaligning the front partial mirror.

Tell them to be quiet for a moment as you use the fish scaling blade from your swiss army knife to realign the partial mirror to one quarter wave and then unfold the paperclip, using it to reconnect the high-voltage trigger to the laser firing mechanism. Have him stand back while you use the high-powered laser to cut through the chain holding him to the table and, incidentally, the wall on the other side of the room, alerting the drug smugglers to your presence. They'll burst into the room and one will fire a pistol at you, missing you but hitting the laser, forcing it permanently on and cracking the rear reflector, bathing the area -- the cookies in particular -- with high-energy radiation. Now get chased around the interior of the temple for a while and, just after the second brief romantic moment where you kiss her and think, "Gosh, for someone who's been running around the Equadorian jungle for nearly a week, her hair's not greasy at all," the cookies should be done.

Run back through the drug lab, grab the cookie sheet, noting that the cooling system for the laser has failed and it's about to explode, and run to the outer room where the three of you scale the pole with the bad guys in hot pursuit. By the time you reach the top of the pole, the bad guys will be halfway up it already, so uncap the bottle of calamine lotion and pour it onto the pole, causing them to fall back into the temple as you and your companions escape into the jungle depths just moments before the entire secret temple explodes, destroying the drug smuggling operation along with all the extraterrestrial artifacts.

By now the cookies should be cool enough to eat. Enjoy. Your companions will have a few too, wistfully sighing over the loss of so much knowledge so senselessly, as you take another cookie and notice that the metal sheet you baked them on has etched onto it the plans for what appear to be some sort of space drive.

Anyway, this is the best chocolate-chip cookie recipe I've ever tried -- I've made it dozens of times and haven't had a single bad batch yet.

Why is it nobody ever talks about going sane? Could it be because that's not a very desirable locations?

So this just might end up being the post that doesn't end :) Consider yourself forewarned!

Ok yeah -- might be a new record so... Short version: Tragedy, comedy, education, mother's day adventures, exploring new worlds, and a mini-rant.

If any of that sounds interesting, read on...

First, the tragedy. Let's all take a moment to mourn the loss of the first ever GRS hat. I know, the world will never be the same... It was chosen by the wind to be sacrificed :( And really, once Nature demands a sacrifice, what's a mere mortal to do? While I was driving the other day, the wind slurped it off my head and threw it out the sunroof to have it land lightly, rightsideup on the shoulder of the road. Unfortunately the road in question was the 401 :( So no more hat for me. Admittedly it would've actually been really funny were it not for the fact that that was my favourite hat. Amazing how often the line between comedy and tragedy is blurred.

So to balance out the tragedy with more comedy -- I rode the cutest little Thellwellian pony the other day. 13.3hh squared. Got on it because it was really hauling it's rider around and needed some breaks reinstalled. But sooo cute *g* hahaha Twice the width of Si and half the height. Typical square pony body-type. Huge floppy flaxen mane. Soooo hard to take that seriously *g* Really surprised one of my students since I kept teaching while I was riding, but she hadn't seen me mount -- was looking around to figure out where I was talking to her from. hahaha

For the curious: A Thelwell


Now the educational component of the day... For those who've ever wanted to run Rolex: Run Henny Run The rider has a helmet cam on as he rides a clear run around Rolex. For those not in the loop Rolex is the only **** (read "four-star") event in NA. To put this in perspective, the Olympics are generally accepted to be of the three-star level. I will be ecstatic the first time Si runs clear around a one-star :) ummmm 3 years from now if the world is good.

Make sure your sound is on. Some things to consider (beyond "holy frig those jumps are big!" :) Note how and when he uses his voice. Both to praise and to steady. And the horse's reaction! (watch the flickering ears :). Also -- in a few places he counts the striding (how many between the squirrles?). Perhaps shows my students that I don't drill this for my own amusement *g* It is a skill required at ALL levels!

Yes the camera jiggles -- he's on a galloping and jumping horse! But in general it's amazingly still -- telling you both that the rider is always looking up (the once or twice it drops my guess would be he's checking his watch) AND that body folds correctly (ankles, knees, hips) so that his upper body can remain still and balanced. Even over the fences. Even the drop fences, where you see the horse's head disappear as it lowers a good 6' or so... The camera stays straight forward.

Watch how the pace changes when he approaches a fence -- and when it doesn't! (wind sound will help you judge this :) Some fences are appropriate to be taken at pace, others not so much... Flying over a big open table in the middle of nowhere -- barely a check. Riding up to a big skinny corner combo? That requires a very different gait.

And perhaps the most important part -- at the end of the ride he's off that horse pretty much the second they cross the finish line. First priority is getting the horse untacked and cooled out. The rider doesn't even pause to take off the helmet (even as he's being chastised for not having a sponge! hahaha we're all human :)

So mother's day was this weekend. This means I needed a Mother's Day gift... hmmmmm tricky. Tricky because while I know my mum's tastes pretty well and enjoy shopping for her, realistically if she wants something, she buys it. So anything left is mostly of the "gee thanks" variety. So I considered for a bit places we could go or things we could do but couldn't come up w/ anything "just right". So then I was going to write something, but really I do that every Friday now, so less interesting. Then I thought I'd do something with photos. I'd done something w/ photos once before and she really liked it. Ok but it'd have to be different from the last one. Well it's for Mother's Day, it should be family based. Ok I can do that.

So photos it is. But what am I going to do with them? And what type of photos should I get? I had figured out family, so I first raided Mum's computer -- hey may as well snag the easy ones :) And various albums. But the thing is, she already *has* all those pics. Contacted my brothers to see if they had any pics of them and Mum. Not so much. Then asked my uncle, who usually has a digital camera at family gatherings if he had any (keep in mind this is Wed with Mother's Day on Sun). So he found the time to go through his files for me and send me what he had, but really not all that much (my Mum seems to be very good at hiding from everyone's camera but mine :). So next step was my aunt's place on Thurs eve -- she had a few albums, some of which had promising shots in them. But still next to nothing with my mum and my brothers together. A few with my grandmother though, so I snagged those with vague "mother/daughter" thoughts... So it was mentioned to me that my other aunt had all my grandmother's photo albums - so I called her and got permission to go raid those on Sat morn (keep in mind, Mother's Day is Sunday :). Still not sure exactly what I'm doing but ok. Travel to Michael's to see what inspiration is to be had. 4 aisles of scrapbooking supplies later I'm entirely overwhelmed. And I didn't really like any of the albums. Store closes and I leave empty handed. Call a girlfriend who does the scrapbook thing and beg her assistance :) Did I mention I've never done this before? And Mother's Day is in three days?

Teaching Fri night -- finish at 8 (after the arena is struck by lightening while we were in it!!! Lots of fun there let me tell you!) and very rude rush out the second the lesson ends to head back to the stores before they close @ 9 (fortunately student understands :). Card store first, hoping it'll have a good scrapbook album. Nope, but did get a Mother's day card. Then photo-store. No albums there either. Ok back to Michael's. Walk in as they're announcing "20 mins to close". Great. But I *had* spent an hour there the day before exploring. Ok pick up some glue, generic paper and "Mom" bling. Find an acceptable album and check out just as they're locking up.

Go home and scan everything I borrowed and look through my own pics for things I might want to use. Have decided to go the "mother/daughter" route by this point, so that restricts the search somewhat :) Photoshop a couple images. All good. Realize that I could really use a couple other things I saw at Michael's.

Sat morning rolls around. Haul notebook and printer to the car and head out. Stop back at Michael's (3 times in 3 days?!?!). Sale on this time - woohoo! Off to my aunt's to raid my grandmother's photos... There upon finding a pic of her with her grandmother start to get an idea :) Scrounge for a pic of my mom and her grandmother. No luck. Sok, I know there's one in her wedding album I could snag -- had just hoped for something different...

Continue on to my friend's place -- meet her @ the barn where she's prepping for show tomorrow. Finish photoshopping while she's doing that then relocate to her place. Scan the rest of the pics in. Dump all supplies out. Ok good to go.

Now what?

hmmmmm yeah this'd be the part I hadn't quite figured out. I've got pictures. And a general concept. And some sample layouts off the web. That don't really work cause they all assume a lot more pics then I have. ummmm ok. So I went through and picked which photos I really wanted. Then I broke them into sections - generations, diff trips, random single shots, etc... And played with how to make each page different and interesting -- resident scrapbook expert had some suggestions for that :) hahaha Once I have the layouts set, start sizing and printing photos. Then...

Power failure. Seriously. That lasted several hours! Notebook also lasted a couple hours though, so while I couldn't print, I could at least resize and prep photos. N made notes of the couple photos that "would be perfect here" that I didn't have with me so I could get them at home. Just as it got too dark to work anymore and I packed everything up, the power came back. hahaha classic. So open everything up again and continue for a few more hours. Oh and just a suggestion -- if you're going to glue sand on something, make sure you do that LAST. Trust me on this one *g*

I'll tell ya though, was really kewl when each page came together -- like writing a story and all the pieces click. It starts with a sliver of a whisp of a thought and somehow ends up in a cohesive package. Some of them I was quite proud of (even if I *am* just a beginner :). hahaha def the go big or go home thing though -- it should've been a month's project, not a day! Classic.

So go home and *sleep*. Alarm goes off in the am -- find and print the missing couple photos. Glue them in. Add the worst wrapping job ever, and done in time :) hahaha Happy Mother's Day Mum!!! Hope you enjoyed it :)

Then it was off to the new world... For me, that'd be a Western schooling show. Now being a schooling show, you have the same level of casualness and horrendous riding you do at any schooling show. But there were a couple there who could ride. The friend I was with was way underchallenged by the whole thing (although she doesn't seem to realize it >;-P) So far beyond the competition it was just silly. Well except for the whole not knowing left from right thing -- apparently that's a challenge in any discipline! I was entertained that by the 2nd class I could pin them in the same order as the judge -- but again, schooling show, doesn't require all that much skill to evaluate *g* Just needed to figure out which classes were eq and which were under saddle :) I will say I prefer dressage letters to pylons for patterns. Had to laugh though as most of the riders neglected to leave enough space between the fence and their horse to spin. They'd get half way through and get stuck. An experience thing I guess, but still - you'd think that'd be something you'd figure out pretty fast. Or at very least after watching the first rider run into that problem! Sheesh. Was an entertaining and fairly informative day anyways. I love "hesitate" as one of the instructions on the test (as opposed to halt) inbetween movements. hahaha. That one amused me to no end -- seems to sum up the diff in attitude so well. Hesitate instead of Halt. Immobility. (always w/ capital letters and periods). hahaha ok enough of that :) As to how the day actually went? Well that's not my story to tell... :) Always good to visit another world though. And admittedly I'm very impressed by the bridleless reining (not demonstrated here, we were just discussing :). The most I've ever been able to do was get Zel to trot a figure 8. And even that was ummm interpretive :)

And now the mini-rant... So I was doing an assessment lesson the other day and the student asked me how to use her reins (a totally appropriate question - and she's at the level above "pull left to go left" -- looking for more detail). So I stared with "How you use your reins depends what you want to do..." Which she answers immediately with "I want to do hunter". Ummmm ok well w/o commentating on the choice of sport, missing the point entirely. Do you want to move the shoulder, flex/bend the neck, the poll? What are you trying to accomplish. It drives me to the end of insanity students who come to me saying they don't need to learn something because they don't need it for "their" chosen style of riding. Learn how to *ride* first - then pick the appropriate tools for the job you want to do. The good riders cross-train and can switch rings as necessary. One week hunter, the next dressage. Another day XC. Yeah I have absolutely no interest in competing in the hunters -- that doesn't mean I don't respect the skill required to put in a good hunter round. And it's something I'm entirely capable of (thanks to a way-back-when coach :) should I choose to. And likewise, even if you never plan to leave the hunter ring, you should still know how to sit to the canter. Learn to ride first. Learn the different skills, options, and techniques -- then you can use whatever ones are required in whichever ring you go in. Yes they change depending what you're doing (compare a hunter, to a dq, to an eventer going down a 6' drop and you'll see three very different positions!) but you should know how, when and why to use each AND be able to do them. Ugh. Ok off soap-box now. And credit to said student, when we had this discussion she gave a sincere try at accomplishing something outside her chosen "style" to fairly good results :)

So I stumbled upon "Widows Live Writer" on Win 7 which amused me for a bit. Unfortunately though it used the pre tag instead of p so messed up my style sheet a bit, so I prob won't use it. Was entertained by a text editor that could post directly to my blog though. It's the little things in life :) What can I say?

Speaking of blog editors -- anybody ever used blog2print? I'm considering it but it's not exactly inexpensive... Quality of what came back?

Wow I can't believe you read all the way here. Gold star for you! And that's a gold star without any fine print :)

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Well the title pretty much says it all :) To my absolutely amazing mother and all the other's out there doing everything they can to raise the next generation as well as those who already have :)

Friday Flash Fiction #36 and WAG: Last Day

The prospective client walked into the office, started to speak to her boss, then saw Karen and visibly blanched. Inwardly she sighed, outwardly she smiled. "Hi, I'm Karen Castleman," she walked forward with her hand outstretched. He hesitated noticeably before taking it, "I see you've met my sister Casey," she mentioned with a wry grin.

"Your sister?" he asked hesitantly.

"Twins," Karen told him, "and complete opposites."

He still looked very nervous, "Mr. Goff, if you know my sister at all, could you ever see her doing a mundane job like this? Sorry Michael," she flashed a grin at her boss as she shrugged off the high-stress VP position she'd worked so hard to earn, "but compared to Casey, I may as well be a soccer mom."

"I didn't even know you had a sister?" Michael asked.

"I don't anymore; Casey died five years ago on assignment in Mexico." At her boss's stunned look, Karen felt the need to elaborate, "She was thoroughly involved in alphabet soup; worked for several of the three-letter agencies, and God only knows who else. And it eventually got her killed. They say the brightest flames burn the fastest. Well Casey got ambition, power, intelligence and strength. I got time."

"Karen you're hardly lacking any of those," Michael reminded her.

"Not compared to the average person perhaps," she said without the least hint of ego, "but compared to her I was but a shadow." There was no self-pity in her voice; she was merely stating a fact.

"Can you do what she could do?" Mr. Goff questioned.

"No, Casey got all the talent in our family." Michael looked puzzled but let it go, especially as the client seemed to relax. The meeting continued on a far more traditional note. Karen wasn't sure they'd be able to overcome the inauspicious beginning and land the account, but it certainly ended on a far more positive note than it had begun.

Karen finished out her day as always. As she got ready to go home, she was a little more careful than usual about gathering her stuff; into her briefcase went her extra shoes, her coffee mug, and her digital picture frame. In that frame was a flash card that held many of her favourite photos. It also held the company financial records and intricate personal notes on every client and the evidence to destroy the company who was helping them funnel drug money.

Michael watched from his office window as Karen left for the day. She was sharp, and she worked hard. But he was going to have to let her go; he couldn't afford any connections, no matter how tenuous, to the three letter agencies. If her sister was dead, it should be ok. But could he trust that she really was? He picked up Karen's file off the desk, scanning for any reference to a connected sister. Karen Castleman. KC. Casey. And as the pieces fell into place, Michael’s heart skipped a beat. With shaking hands he picked up the phone and made a short call. Then he packed his bag as carefully as Karen had.


Neither of them would be returning to the office the next day. And only one of them would be alive to worry about it.



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XC Clinic

(from GRS Blog)

So took Sienna to a clinic today; sort of curious to see which of the twins I’d get – that’d be Superpony or Psychopony. Unfortunately I haven’t figured out yet how to tell them apart when loading >;-P

Find random field to park in – but no sign of farm??? Very strange. Somebody who had just finished their ride directed me down the road and across the street. Ummmm ok. Leave pony (whichever one!) on the trailer with her hay and go for a hike to figure out where I’m going.

Find barn, lesson before is just getting started. Watch for a second or two; one friend of mine is riding and I’d really love to stay and watch, while another couple who I’d love to gossip with are sitting watching. But unfortunately poor protocol to gossip while lesson is going on, and I left the pony alone (see above) so wasn’t comfortable hanging out in the arena watching.

Pull Sienna off the trailer and she immediately embarks on her quest for the perfect piece of grass. This is a good sign – Superpony’s interest is food; Psycopony’s interest is ummmm everything else! Have an hour before we need to be in the ring so gradually interrupt the quest to put random pieces of tack on. When it came time to mount she even *almost* stood still :) hahaha

My old coach was there w/ her T horse and a student riding the last horse I started there (who I wanted to buy to take to Denny’s with me last year). So that was sort of entertaining to watch.

Anyways – they’re getting themselves organized and the fourth horse in our group is bouncing around while his owner is tacking up. By this point I’m reasonably certain Superpony has come to play. Woohoo!

So the first half of the clinic is indoors, and within a few seconds of being in there I *know* it’s Superpony today. How? Because our trot was civilized :) hahaha we weren’t tearing around on the very edge of control. Just a nice quiet trot both directions. Occasionally looking at things but generally pretty amazing. Some flat work, working on bending, then trotting poles and eventually trot poles to a little jump. All super-easy for Si, except of course that the bending exercise was off the left and she was definitely in perma-right mode. But not tragic. Clinician gave me some suppling suggestions so will try those @ home. Jumping was no problem. Si was being her superstar self and I never got anything other than a “good” – but that being said, he didn’t seem to be overly picky either. I felt I was riding reasonably well, but that’s easy to do when your horse is being a saint. The one time we jumped off center, which he commented on, but then seemed surprised when I asked if I could do it again.

Actually that was a thread with both clinicians today that I found a little unusual. The first one humoured me and said sure – and later got me to do it once more to prove it wasn’t a fluke :) but the second clinician too would say something was wrong, but then move on before fixing it and I found that a little frustrating. Both were pretty consistent about it though, although none of the other riders asked for the opportunity to correct their mistakes. Said old coach was way underchallenged by the whole thing and her horse is about two years ahead of all the other horses there so there wasn’t a lot for her to do; she did also fix the one thing she got called on. One of the other riders I think was going on the “thank god I survived and he didn’t say anything” theory. She seemed to get through most of the day that way. The last rider was on quite a hot and very athletic horse – I was quite impressed by her because not only did she deal with her mount bouncing around, but she made a genuine effort to implement the changes recommended and got great results. Sienna was not bouncing around so we didn’t really get anything to change. He asked for a line in 6 strides, so we gave him a line in 6 strides. We went over the scary tarp jump – she launched the first time, but after a couple attempts was stepping over it, no effort required. Superpony :) That was another random one I had to ask about (“can we go over that?” puzzled look, “ummm sure” with a shrug. Hahaha I love amusing the clinicians. But why *not* take every advantage to teach her something, esp when in superpony mode?) Our last line we were coming in offstride so I sat up and put her together so she got in fairly deep – it was successful but not overly smooth. I apologized out of habit and he stopped me and told me not to apologize since it was the right decision (well yeah, but it’s a decision that should’ve been made 5 strides earlier). That was another one I wanted to redo, but no go that time because everybody was ready to go cross.

So we switch clinicians and go outside. Great track, amazing footing, pond in the middle. I wish I had that at home :) Start with a trot around the track. NP. Then go around once at PT pace. I was bang on. Hahaha pretty excited about that. I didn’t actually tell the clinician the right number so she doesn’t know that little detail, but when I took the time to look more closely at my watch I discovered it.

So we’re supposed to go again. This time Si was busy shying at stuff for the first section and when I put my leg on and told her to smarten up and go, well she went :) Not actually her fastest by any means but unfortunately significantly faster than PT speed, esp towards home. And not the least bit inclined to stop *sigh* So clinician teaches me her emergency breaking system, which I found reasonably useful later. Will have to work on that one :)

So now there are three fences on the “home stretch” – we’re supposed to gallop around the track and then over the three. Ummmm yeah not such a good idea. Did you miss the “no breaks” part of the last paragraph? I told you I cannot rate or stop her, and she’s super-green, so I’m not about to point her at a fence in that situation. So I just trotted her up the home stretch and did the jumps in a quiet canter. I was highly amused to note that the other two girls followed my lead on that. The clinician however was less amused. Ah well.

Next we got a mini-course. Over little logs, down bank, over ugly-looking but not overly large fence. Ummm ok, except for the whole bank part. Any objection to walking down? Puzzled look. Umm we’ve done two of these, ever. Oh ok then, go up and then down it. So we go up, yeah superstar pony. Amused to note that yet again the other two are following me (why do I always have to be the one to speak up?). Going down though, superpony was less than sure. As in not *quite* rear and spin but almost there. So I trot her around a bit and when she’s good hop off and lead her down the bank. Brilliant. Clinician was *not* happy w/ me for that. But when I got back on she did it perfectly so all good.

So we do our mini-course. No problem. Mr crop was employed for the ugly jump – which gave us an extra foot or two and quite the landing, but she went over it when she wasn’t sure so that was good. This was a case of something I wanted to redo that didn’t get to. (Eventually did do it again, but long past the useful timing).

N then we went to the ditch. N this was less than good. Suffice to say, when I felt the meltdown coming I should've just lead her over it, remounted and all would've been well. But I tried to do it the clinician's way. And when we couldn't even get close to it anymore she gave up. So I tried leading her at that point but it was way too late. So now Superpony has a ditch issue. Frig. Guess what we'll be spending the summer doing? Rode her over a few fences we'd already done to finish with (including the ugly :)

So the first half of the clinic was not particularly interesting or challenging but my horse was awesome so I was pretty thrilled at that. Amazingly well behaved. The second half taught my horse that ditches house monsters AND that she has an option about whether to jump. NOT good. So while I am actually very happy with how my horse went, I have to admit to being thoroughly disappointed overall *sigh*