Here there be dragons...

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

Shakespeare goes XC schooling

Sometimes I find random parts of my life choose to intersect in very unusual ways.

The one that really made me laugh this week was when I was schooling Lexi XC on Tuesday.  I talk to baby horses a *lot* when I ride.  Less so once they know what they're doing, but I usually find the greenbeans responds pretty well to a calming voice.  Or alternately, sometimes a growling or a cheering voice.  And sometimes all three on one jump *g*  Regardless, the end result is a sometimes ridiculous rather one-sided conversation.

Sometimes the conversation is practical.  Counting strides is an old standby of mine.  "Steady" or "wait" are others.  "Good girl" is pretty much a given on take off -- leading to all sorts of wonderful facial expressions *sigh*.  Etc etc.  But sometimes not so much.

So I was riding Lexi toward the baby house, and there was another house right next to it.  What do I find myself saying?  "Two houses...  Both alike in dignity.  In fair Verona where we lay our scene..."  Bahaha yeah it was just random enough that it totally took all my concentration off what I was supposed to do *g*  One of those, where did *that* come from moments.  And then I was even more annoyed I couldn't remember the next line.  Yeah, I'm a geek, what can I say.   But she jumped both of the dignified houses, so it's all good.  And yes, I know it's actually households -- but we were jumping houses!  Work with me here.
Straight and centre -- not half bad :)
And not only did she do houses, but the scary coups, the up and down banks (down took some work), and the ditches!  Super pro-star with the ditch; I was pretty stoked about that.  And then she got two days off to recover *g*   Well more because of the heat than the xc, but still.  She was lots of fun to ride stupidly-early this am.  hahaha ah well.
Lexi over the baby ditch
And with that -- it's off to sleep for me.  To sleep, perchance to dream.  A thousand times good night :)

Summer Simple Pleasures

Alright people -- there's been just a little too much whining about this amazing summer week we're having :)    For those of you who *love* winter, you're exempt.  You're insane, but you're exempt. I'll complain about your season and you can complain about mine -- it's all good.  But for everybody else for whom it was too cold, then too wet, and now too hot...  Pick one!

For me -- it's all about summer.  The *only* down side in my little world is I worry about my animals whose comfort level is 10-20 degrees lower than mine and who can't escape to air conditioning.  But the up sides?  Those are endless.

Introducing Summer Simple Pleasures:

- being warm
- not being cold :)
- long hours of daylight
- sailing!
- playing frisbee with my dog
- milkshakes
- going barefoot
- cycling
- patio lunches with Jen
- lying outside at night counting the stars
- being able to take Sasha for a walk at midnight wearing shorts and a tshirt and be totally comfortable
- being able to do barn chores in <2h p="">- driving with the roof down (this'd be much easier if I owned a convertible! >;-P)
- sundresses (admittedly less appropriate where I work, but any excuse I get...)
- water parks (yup, I'm really 12 years old :)
- watching the horses grazing in their paddocks
- cottaging
- ice cream!   Kwartha Dairy anybody?
- everything about show season except, perhaps, the lack of sleep!
- napping outside on a summer afternoon
- splashing through the waves on the beach
- sandals
- driving with the windows down and the radio blaring
- night swimming
- riding xc
- slushies
- hacking
- hiking
- hammocks
- Shakespeare in the park
- not needing to wear mitts to do the barn
- the sound of the wind rustling the leaves of the trees
- the power of a summer storm
- the smell of fresh cut hay
- floating on pool toys
- bbq
- freezies
- pool parties
- street artists
- zipping across the lake in a speed boat
- or behind said speed boat :)
- eating fresh strawberries outside on a warm day
- or raspberries
- or watermelon
- or...  well you get the idea :)
- outdoor theatre
- having the windows open at night
- weedeating (okay I know this is supposed to be a chore, but really there's something satisfying about it)
- swings
- exploring tiny towns in the middle of nowhere
- happier, more relaxed people
- watching Sasha swim in the pond
- diving into the lake on a hot day at the cottage
- diving into the pool any day :)
- picnics
- the way my hair changes colour (admittedly less successful when I tie it up under a hat!)
- driving both to and from work in daylight (I only get about three weeks of this -- it's already dark when I drive home now *sigh*)
- turning the horses out without blankets
- spending a lazy afternoon outside with a book
- not wishing I lived in a warmer country
- a darkening sky just before a massive thunder storm
- outdoor musicians
- less traffic
- people watching
- stepping outside of an overly-air-conditioned building into warmth
- listening to the crickets as the sun sets
- sitting in the shade under the tree
- flowers
- the smell of the forest after a rainfall
- a cool shower after working outside all day

I could keep going but that last option seems too appealing.  And then maybe I'll take Sash for a walk to admire the stars...

What are your summer simple pleasures?

Revisiting 30 Things in 30 Years

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me :)

So, way back when (how has five years passed already???) I wrote a blog post about thirty things in thirty years, based off this idea.   I really haven't looked at it since then, but I though it might be interesting (to me anyways!) to find it and see which I've accomplished, which are still on the list, and if there are any I really don't care about any more...  So, here goes.  The original list along with my thoughts now :)

1 have something I write published - So nailed this one pretty much.  And I remember hesitating to put it on the list simply because I figured there was not a chance.  Ever.  But five years, two short stories and one novel later...  More in progress.  And basically the most exciting thing going on in my world these days.  I suppose the next step would be to have something that's published make X amount in royalties...  $1000 maybe?  $10000?  bahahaha this from the girl who has yet to pass $50 >;-P   Ambitious much?
It's real!  I still have trouble believing that!
2 earn PhD - I actually find I'm caring less about this one the farther away from academia I'm getting.  We'll say it's still on the list, but I wonder if it'll make the next cut...

3 run 5k Been there, done that.  And then some!
15K race :)   Part of me's actually considering doing it again.
We're ignoring that part >;-P
4 live, laugh, learn (this is only one thing really, not three, cause I intend to do them all together!) - still in progress, still on the list.

5 repay student loan - ummm yeah, about that *sigh*

6 get (and learn to use!) a serious camera Half way there.  I *have* a snazzy camera now, but still very much a beginner in the how to use it category!  I figure I like maybe 1 in 100 of the shots I take.  Not quite the ratio I'm looking for.

7 sleep (I'm going to need to after completing this list!) bahahaha

8 learn enough Latin to be able to read medieval texts - Failed :(  Booo.  I learned the basics, but not enough.  Still on the list cause I'm fairly fascinated by it, but on hold for now.  Only so much time in a day!

9 let go of past hurts - Pretty much done :)  I remember what this referred to and time solved...  But I suppose it's always an ongoing thing.  

10 make time for self - Getting *slightly* better at this.  Mostly thanks to Stephy helping out at the barn so often.  Not going to claim it's accomplished though since one of these days she's going to get a real job *g*

11 make time for friends (hmmm do these two conflict?) - Still really bad at this *sigh*  Getting slightly better though!

12 have serious relationship (definitely conflicts w/ above two!) - ummmm yeah.  Another horrible fail.  Would probably make for a good blog post if I wrote about that part of my life.  hahaha oh dear.  But less good for the whole marriage and serious relationship idea :(   Definitely still on the list.

13 compete intermediate level eventing - Not yet.  Very definitely still on the list.  Lexi maybe?  That's a long way away yet, but it's dreams like that that keep me going.
Okay Superpony - my hopes are on you.  Stay sound, healthy and brave!
14 learn to cook at least one meal I'd be proud to make for company Yeah no.  Not even sure I care any more.  Maybe that non-existent other half will cook? :)  If you're going to dream, dream big right?

15 expand my vocabulary - Meh.  Does that count?  :)  I like to think my writing's improving and with it my vocabulary, but not really sure how to quantify this one.

16 travel: visit Egypt, South Africa, Ireland (is that really 3 things???) - None of the above.  Booo :(  All still on the list.  And a few others :)

17 see the northern lights Not yet!  Still on the list.

18 change someone's life (preferably for the better!) I have no idea.  But it still sounds good :)

19 get a massage So Stephy and Paula gave me a gift certificate for this for my birthday last year.  Ummmm I have yet to go.  Oops.  Really want to, but apparently that whole "make time for self" thing isn't *that* complete yet.  I tried twice, but both times they were already booked.  Will go. Seriously.

20 buy some fashionable clothes (will need some help w/ this one!) Right -- sort of.  Mostly I just rely on Steph and Jen to dress me now.

21 ride Trans-Wales Trail - Haven't gone yet, can't wait to go, definitely still on the list.  Just hoping they don't decide to close down before I get there!

22 do something w/ genealogy notes - Nope.  Haven't even started.  Still on the list, but not for the next five years probably *g*

23 climb to the top of a Mayan pyramid - Not yet.  Still on the list.

24 go on a Canadian road trip w/ no predetermined destination Hasn't happened yet, but I *did* at least get to go to Banff.  Had so much fun there with Mum.

25 start riding school and make successful -- successful defined as self-supporting and me not having to work 7 days/wk unless I want to  - Okay so not *quite* there yet, but I like to think it's well on its way!  HUGE thanks to everybody who's helped this one come true.  Notice how far down on the list I stuck the one that should've been number one?  Put it in at the end because I didn't really think it could ever happen.  Figured the writing was a big enough scary goal to announce to the world; this one would be smuggled in.  But it's happening!  And it's amazing!
My logo and all my current schoolies :)
Thanks to Emily Martin for the image.
26 win my fair share of Trivial Pursuit at the cottage (damn pink category!) - Done and done!  But I still hate pink.

27 identify 100 things that make me happy (oh no, another list!) This list seems a lot less important somehow when I'm genuinely happy most of the time these days.  The superstitious side of me hesitates to write that; I keep waiting for it all to change.  But maybe that's when it's most important -- so that when it changes, the memory is there...  I'll leave the happy list on the goal list for now :)

28 parasail Still haven't done it; would still like to.

29 live my imagination Definitely done.  The only issue is, my imagination seems to know no bounds...

30 do something w/ my photos An odd way to finish...  I'm puzzled by this one as I don't really know what I meant, so have no idea if it's accomplished or not...  Does Facebook count?  :)   I print the ones I really like and save the others.

So yeah.  That's about it.  I'm really excited about where things are now, and how much I've accomplished.  But I'm even more excited about how much there is still left to do :)  Wish me luck!  Or better yet -- come along for the ride.

A sample of what's coming next!

As requested - a snippet from the latest work-in-progress.  I think it mostly stands on its own.  I kinda love this main character.  She might have to stick around for a while :)

The original of the first chapter can be found here -- obviously person and names have changed, but the premise is the same.

My little world is still in need of a name though -- any suggestions?  Medieval-ish, said world has 6 divisions to it.  

Let me know what you think!

-------------

Gavin looked again to Marcus for instruction and Lissa had to work to maintain her calm facade. More than anything from home she missed being treated as an equal by the men.  She may not have their knowledge of war, but she expected to at least be answered directly.  But she took a deep breath and told herself to forget it.  Women’s lib wasn’t even a figment of the imagination here.  The fact that Marcus and Zane respected her was surprising enough – she had to remind herself to be grateful for that.

And then, she learned it went beyond that.  She realized Marcus was livid and when he addressed the knight; his voice was ice cold and his visible tattoos seemed to become more vibrant somehow.  “She is your queen and she asked you a question. You have disgraced yourself and me by failing to answer immediately.  The only reason you are still alive is because she respects me enough not to kill you.  But if you fail again, I’ll take care of it myself.  Are we understood?”

Lissa nodded her appreciation to Marcus, while the knight stammered an apology.  But, she realized, it wasn’t enough.  He would treat her with respect to honour Marcus, but not because he actually respected her.  She’d have to earn that. 

A slow smile crept over her face as the idea came to her.

“Calista…” she heard the warning in Zane’s voice, but ignored it.  She wasn’t going to do anything particularly challenging.  They’d been practising endlessly.  She just wanted to make a point.  She imagined a ring around the knight on the floor.  She could see it clearly in her mind.  The men were all watching her now, but she said nothing.  She held her hand in front of her and turned it over palm down then back up again, as a casino dealer would before dealing the cards.  When their eyes focused on her hand, she created a little flame.  Nothing intimidating, smaller even than the average candle.  It flickered, bouncing just over her palm, and she looked up to meet the knight’s eyes.  She flashed a wicked smile and he paled.

But she wasn’t done.  She brought her hand up to her face.  It was entirely unnecessary, but she understood the effect of a good show.  One of the things Zane had taught her was magic was far more powerful if the audience believed, and she knew how to manipulate an audience.  She blew gently on the flame, but instead of going out or even growing as a flame would usually behave, it took on the characteristics of a leaf – and when she blew on it, it gently floated away. 

The flame wafted gently until it hit that imaginary ring around the knight.  The ring that her mind had lined with gasoline.  The effect was impressive.  Startling even to her, and she knew what was coming.  Instantly the knight was surrounded with a wall of fire taller than he was.  She saw him through the flames, hands up protecting his face, spinning in an attempt to find a way out.

Marcus let out a loud laugh; while Lissa was certain it was forced, she was also reasonably certain the knight was too panicked to notice the subtlety.

“I think,” the wizard spoke calmly, “Sir Gavin has learned his lesson, highness.  I’m getting quite warm, so if you don’t intend to kill him, perhaps you could douse the flames?”

“Look at me, Sir Knight.”

The knight did as he was told, meeting her gaze through the flames.  Slowly she dissipated the flame into the air, allowing the flames to shrink until they vanished.  She held Gavin’s gaze the whole time; her own expression was carefully neutral. 

“Let me be very clear,” her voice was calm and quiet, making it all the more powerful.  “I am queen, which alone means I outrank your lord.  I am also a wizard, which makes me the most powerful queen LAND has seen in centuries.  I was raised far from here and have training the likes of which you cannot imagine, which enables me to think and solve puzzles in a manner you’ve never seen. Trust me, Sir Gavin, what I tell you now.  That wall of fire is naught but a child’s trick.  If you ever disrespect me again, you will learn just what a warrior queen is capable of.  Understood?”

“Yes highness,” his voice came out clear.  He continued to hold her eyes as he dropped to one knee and held his sword out in front of him, point to the ground.  Then very deliberately he bowed his head.  “I give you my sword, highness.  And with it my life.”

He stared at the ground while Lissa considered him.  Technically he owed her his allegiance regardless through Marcus, so the offer, while undoubtedly heart-felt, wasn’t actually of any benefit to her.  Her head was pounding; she put it down to stress and frustration.  She was getting so very tired of the testosterone game.  Threaten them, they respect you.  But it wasn’t the kind of respect she wanted.

“I do not accept,” she said.  Marcus tensed and his hand reached for his blade, but she caught his eye and shook her head sharply.  “Your sword belongs to Lord Thornbury, as does your life.  I have no need of either, for I have his sword.”  Marcus nodded and the knight’s shoulders deflated slightly.

“What I do need, however, is your opinion about the dorns.”  She repeated her earlier request.

“Yes your highness.”  He remained kneeling, but lowered his sword to the floor and lifted his eyes to meet hers.  His recitation was thorough and in the end, she knew what they were facing.  

“Do you have anything else to tell us?” she asked, exhausted and hoping the answer was no.

“No highness.”

“Marcus?  Zane?” she asked.  Both men shook their head in the negative.

“You are dismissed Sir Gavin.”

The knight bowed first to her, then to Marcus and finally to the wizard before leaving the room.  As soon as the door shut, Lissa sighed and leaned back against the wall, wishing she could relax even briefly. 

“You know,” Marcus said studying her, while one hand mindlessly twirled a knife between his fingers, “when I told Gavin you could kill him, I didn’t actually think you could do it.”

“I know.  That’s why I had to do what I did.”

“Why didn’t you accept his sword?”

“Because it was offered out of fear, not respect.”  She paused for a moment and he nodded; he didn’t look surprised.

“You were going to kill him.”  She said it as a statement, but he answered it as if it were a question.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“A soldier whose allegiance is rejected is dishonoured.  As a subject of yours, I couldn’t keep a vassal whom you had deemed unworthy.  But nor can I afford for him to sell what he knows to our enemies.  His life was forfeit when you declined him and he knew it.  You restored his honour to him smoothly and enabled him to maintain his position in my household.  He’s your man now, whether you want him or not.”

“I know,” she said with a wry smile.

Marcus paled just slightly and his hand paused in the twirling of the knife.   She winked at him and the knife slowly started moving again.  “You are your mother’s daughter,” he said, “but you are so much more than she ever was.  I won’t forget it.”


Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. - E.L. Doctorow

So that title -- oh so true.  So many times my characters do something that was just not in the plans and mixes everything up.  Usually for the better, but I'm not always pleased about it.  A couple times I've had characters randomly insert themselves into the story; they didn't exist, they weren't supposed to exist, and I have nothing for them to do.  But suddenly they're there and I have to work with them.  Or worse, when somebody important dies or gets lost or some other tragedy.  Well they were supposed to stick around -- how can it work without them?

"But you're the writer, you say what happens..."  Ummm well I've sort of discovered that's not true.  At least, not for my best writing.  When I try to control what happens I get mediocre stories -- some of my flash attempts have been of that forced writing.  It might be salvageable.  Might even be reasonable.  But it's not going to be something that sticks with you or leaves you wondering what happens next.  If, instead, I just record the story as it plays out in my head -- even when it doesn't go the way I want it to -- the results are much better.  It's very weird and it's very hard to explain, but I've learned from talking to multiple really successful writers, that it is normal.  Or what passes for normal for a writer *g*


So yeah, I may be slightly schizophrenic, but I write it down, so it's okay.  And when the story's gone, the characters leave my head.  If they don't leave, their story's not done.  It's as simple and horrifyingly involved as that.  And I have to admit, I find it *really* amusing when my characters do things I don't expect them to.  Frustrating, occasionally, but always entertaining.  I think it might be one of the main things that makes storytelling so interesting to me.

So in a marathon session that gave me far too little sleep between yesterday and today, the first draft of the next book is complete.  Longer than the last one and a little more complex, but similar style.  I suspect this one might make a series :)  Have several ideas for book two even though book one is still so rough nobody else is going to be allowed to see it yet *g*   Sheesh.

The crazy assassin one I was writing is completed (again only in rough) -- and also set up in such a way it could be a series.  Yikes!  But I think I want to get a few more of the fantasy type published first; I'm a little less disturbed by those.  hahaha although I will admit I had a lot more fun researching that one *g*

Both sets of characters are still living in my head, so clearly their stories aren't done yet.

Have learned all sorts of interesting ideas about book promotion and marketing, but one of the things that seems most prevalent is there's not a whole lot of point unless you have more than one book *sigh*  Sooooo figured I'd keep writing first, continue to be hugely grateful for the awesome people who've been supporting my efforts, and then attempt to make it reasonably successful after there's something there to market.  That might change, but realistically -- there are only so many hours in the day.  I'd rather apply them where they have a hope of being useful!

Am amazed at how this has sort of taken over my life though.  New 'friends' on Facebook that I feel like I've known for years.  More free books to read than I could ever have a hope of reading *g* -- talk about an unexpected perk!  All sorts of information and advice and basically a whole world I didn't even know existed.  And the best part is -- they're welcoming and incredibly supportive of new writers.  Pretty cool.   Of course connected fastest with the other horse people :)  It's amazing how very quickly that detail becomes obvious.

And speaking of horses -- my little mare was such a superstar today.  Found her "big trot" hahaha -- all kinds of forward.  Realistically I'd say this was the first lesson I've had on her where I worked even a little.  She's slowly getting fit and broke enough that I can actually start to ride her.  Woohoo!

And then just because that's the way my life works, while Lexi was working on lengthening, Sasha was working on collection *g*  hahaha classic eh?  I'm out of puppy school for the summer and seriously missing it.  Sash clearly was too -- I wish I'd recorded how excited she was when she saw where we were.  But I had a couple make-ups from ages ago, so did one of those today.  So much fun!  Sash really is a star.  I wish I had more time and $ to dedicate to training her for this particular game but...  Eventually something has to give *sigh*   Now what I really need, is agility gear at the barn.  Then I'd be set!  hahaha

How to make a baby...

So *that's* how it works!   This great instructional photo-series by Quebec photographer Patrice Laroche and his partner Sandra Denis shows quite clearly where babies come from.

First plug air hose into the woman's belly-button -- logical really.

Start inflating.  This process may take a while.

Be patient -- it'll be worth it in the end.

When you get near the end, watch out!


Be prepared to catch!  Baby comes with a bang!

The new family together.  Welcome baby Justine.

The expert in anything was once a beginner

So I'm amazed at how excited and still fairly surprised I am whenever somebody tells me they've read -- and better yet, liked -- my book.  At least they're telling me they liked it *g*  They could just be being kind :)   But I tell myself if that was the case, they just wouldn't say anything.

Totally made my day when Christina told me at the show yesterday that she'd read and enjoyed it :)  Partially because, well - that's always awesome to hear.  But even more because it's support from an unexpected area.  From my good friends it's great, but, well, I think that falls under the category of 'things you do for friends'. hahaha  But by far the coolest part of this latest adventure of mine is the number of people who I know but am not close to who've been incredibly supportive.  Students I taught ages ago, people I know from the show circuit who I see and chat with regularly but don't really know outside the event world, 'friends' I know exclusively on Facebook, my favourite hair dresser, the mother of a girl who I was close friends with in primary school *g*  The list goes on and gets even more obscure...  And then, not only to take the time to go get AND read it -- but to actually tell me about it after...  Awesome!

This photo on FB kinda made my week :)  The caption from Jeannette was "FINALLY!!! Awesomeness delivered right to my door. I can't wait to get started!!"

My ego smiled at this one :)
bahaha right - definitely in the same class there >;-P  hahaha I can dream right?  Some day.  Maybe.

Favourite review yet:  I totally loved it! You've joined a very select rank of books that I can bribe myself with in order to get any housework done. It goes a little something like: 'ok, after this chapter, I will go clean the bathroom, then I can read another 2 chapters'. My house is spotless and the book is finished. 

hahaha that and anybody who has asked for a sequel :)  No bigger honour than that!  Current work in progress is a similar style but not actually related in any way shape or form.  Maybe this year's nanowrimo? :)  hahaha we'll see!

Anyways - I'm just so very happy, I thought I'd say thanks :)   And post it so that next time I'm muttering at the screen cause the words aren't flowing I remember that there may - just may - be a point to this torture.  hahaha  Kinda like remembering what the end of a flawless XC run feels like when you're lying in a mud puddle. Again.

And speaking of -- awesome rides on both Lexi and Lissy today.  So much fun :)

Okay, back to work!

Sane, quiet, weak-willed horses do not go advanced.

It's been an, ummm, interesting week in the world of a certain baby horse.  Yeah, interesting.  That's the word for it.

If you scroll down a bit you'll get to read all about our Sunday and Monday adventures.  My superpony had a very short stretchy walk/trot ride on Tuesday and that's all.  She was understandably somewhat tired.   The story picks up from there.

So Lexi went to her first show on Wednesday :)

Right, don't get too excited. By went, I mean literally "went" -- not competed.  hahaha I was coaching but only had one student there (insert commercial minibrag blog post here. Selena on Willow -- came second in their first ever show. Woohoo!).   Anyways -- only bringing one horse so I figured Lexi could take the other spot on the trailer and go learn to be a grown-up horse.   She could get on and off the trailer (something she's very unsure about), go somewhere and hang out eating.

Equus has a ton of space both in the trailering area and in the warm-up, so it'd be an ideal baby location as it'd be easy to keep her out of the way.  And I even considered the possibility of schooling her XC after.

Now I'm not new -- I know how exciting babies can be, and I know I couldn't do a fair job of coaching Selena if I had to deal with Lexi too, so... Classic solution...  Ask one of my super-star working students.  Kennedy's pretty brave and I thought might be willing to give up a summer day, so I asked if she would come babysit.  Sure enough she was all for it.

Lexi loaded with little stress and trailered...  Well at least as well as she ever does *sigh*.  Unloaded and she was actually pretty cool hanging out eating while we got Willow ready.  In dressage warm-up, also cool.  Beginning to think maybe I'd underestimated my little drama queen.

Yeah -- you're not new here.

Coming back from dressage we had an unfortunate run-in with a four-wheeler which was good for all sorts of leaping and flailing about in the air -- really quite impressive!  I asked Kennedy if she wanted me to take her, but no, she was fine with her :)  Four-wheeler driver killed the engine right away and waited very patiently till we were safely past, but it at least justified bringing her in the first place.  hahaha

Okay so fair enough.  She was quite good during stadium warm-up -- dragged Kennedy off in search of the perfect piece of grass, which was miles from anywhere anything interesting was going on of course, but generally all good.   Selena finished her round and we were back in the w/u area, stopped so she could dismount and change to XC gear.  Lexi was maybe ten feet away, when all of a sudden she lost her little mind.  I swear she tried to turn herself inside out!  Legs flailing everywhere in a hugely impressive display of athleticism but more than slightly excessive and unending.  Twisting and turning in ways horses were never supposed to turn -- seriously you'd swear she was trying out for cirque du soleil!  She just kept leaping and cavorting for no apparent reason, but eventually I managed to follow her gaze and figure out what was causing it.

And then I had to look again because I really didn't believe it.

Maybe 40m away, on the other side of a fence was a...

PONY!

Worse - a pony being ridden by a child!

Now we all know that is, indeed, the epitome of well-disguised evil, but most of us don't react quite so obviously about it.  And the drama didn't end until the child finished whatever tack adjustment he was making and moved on.   Absolutely insane.

This from the horse that didn't blink at the donkey.

Right -- so then we went to walk XC.  There wasn't a ton mowed, so I decided not to ride.  All good.  She had a slight meltdown when a group of three other horses galloped towards us; nothing compared to the pony standing still, but still moderately impressive.  But then, before they even passed, not only did the drama stop -- it went the other extreme. That's right, once again my lovely little grey mare dropped with no warning to roll in the hay.  Admittedly she was again in long grass (to get off the galloping path) but still.  Sheesh.  You'd think she'd at least wait till the scary galloping horses had passed her.  hahaha oh dear.

I just might die on our first outing.

That was Wednesday.  Thursday she was being turned out with a new buddy.  She was *really* excited about said new buddy.  So excited that instead of waiting for me to unlatch the gate and let her in she JUMPED the friggin' fence.  From a halt.  And then tried to go for a run with said new buddy, but really -- he's a 14yo beginner horse whose fastest pace rivals the average turtle.  He was all sorts of excited to have a new friend, but content to show it without actually moving.  Rescue lead line, decide horse looks reasonably sound leaping around, and return to the barn.  I was really concerned that she'd hurt herself landing, but when I lunged her later she was sound so all good.

Friday we had our first really good dressage lesson.  So I was legitimately thrilled at that.  I'm learning the signs of an impending temper-tantrum and how to avoid them and/or pick my battles.  She's definitely going to be the type of mare you have to negotiate with.  Fortunately, those are the ones I enjoy :)  Anyways -- we all know about the dressage pyramid.  The ultimate training scale.  Suffice to say we're not on the plains of Giza.  We're not even in Egypt.  We're looking at photos.  Blurry ones.  hahaha but it was still a huge baby step in the right direction :)

Saturday I was coaching at Glenarden HT (hey, is this sounding familiar at all?)   Hahaha but unlike Equus, Glenarden does *not* have very much room, so I did *not* bring my baby horse.  She stayed home and behaved herself all day.  Lexi's regular turnout buddy is on stall rest.  Charlie's regular turnout buddy is on vacation.  Lexi and Charlie used to be turned out together and get along really well.  Tell me the leap isn't that big?  Yes -- I turned Lexi and Charlie out together and they settled quickly.  No drama.

Well apparently Charlie told Lexi what she'd missed at the show.  My friend Rebecca calls me a couple hours later to tell me Lexi's doing conditioning laps of our mini-xc course (which is in her and Charlie's excessively large paddock).  In 30+deg temps.  And showing no signs of stopping.   She said Charlie did one lap with her and then stopped, looked at her like she was insane, and returned to grazing.  Apparently there was no drama or concern in her behaviour.  Not stressed or charging the gate.  Nope, just wanted to run. And run. And run.  So Rebecca kindly rescued her, hosed her off (yeah for having spent two weeks teaching her slowly that wash stalls are a good thing!   She's a grey horse, she can't be afraid of the wash stall), cooled her out, and then returned her back to her own Charlie-less paddock.

It's been an interesting week.  Makes me wonder what's next :)

Lexi learns XC with Blyth Tait

*edited - have to go to the barn, but for those who *really* want the story...  Here's the first draft.  Lessons learned etc will be its own post (maybe tonight) cause this is already long!*

XC day of the Blyth Tait clinic was yesterday.  I had to leave early to get back to the barn in time to teach.  By the time I got home from work and uploaded all the photos (cause let's be honest. people care more about photos than blog posts *g*) I was done.  Really done.

BUT thanks to the absolutely amazing Kennedy who got up early to do the barn for me, I got to sleep in!  Woohoo!  So now you're getting a day-time blog post.  I never write during the day. Partially because I write best at night and partially because I'm always *busy* during the day *g*   So we'll see how this goes.  Meeting the vet at the barn this aft, so I have till then to type (not Lexi, but one of my other horses is 3-legged lame and I'm super worried about him...)

Got there Monday morning with lots of time to feed my pony (which was not so necessary thanks tons to Dani!) and get ready to go.  As I didn't have anybody with me (and realistically, Lexi had a stall and *should* be exhausted so I didn't really need anybody) I begged Sabrina to take photos for me.  hahaha so mini camera tutorial and then go to tack up.  Well I turn around and Vanessa's handing me tack and Sabrina's getting me organized and both Dani and Kitty were there too -- apparently it takes four-five people to get me ready *g*  I put it down to being invited to stay in Arthur's barn -- you get spoiled there :)   Really it was just social hour as nobody else was riding till later, and social hour when comprised of several helpful people gets things done quickly.

Take Lexi out to the arena and all of a sudden she's not so tired...  Spinning in circles, fairly concerned.  Fortunately at just that moment I saw Emily riding Lexi's new best friend (as of yesterday) out to XC.   I called out to her and she very kindly came in the ring to babysit until we were ready.  The spinning came down right away and became more of a pacing -- at which point Kitty magically appeared to help get Lex to pause long enough for me to get on *g*  hahaha clearly need a little more experience before I'll be able to handle my pony entirely on our own.  You wouldn't know she rides alone Every Single Day at home.  Sheesh.

So Lexi glues herself to Mya and we hike our way to the XC course with no major drama.  But once we get there, I asked her to *gasp* go a slightly different direction!  OMG!  hahaha we had a *really* impressive leap in the air and then quite a lovely hand-gallop around the field.  Which didn't actually take us anywhere near Emily and Mya who were walking around like civilized creatures.  But sobeit :)  After our little run which Blyth seemed somewhat bemused by he suggested we not try to stand still and that I just keep her moving around (at a walk preferably) until the others got there.  Right.  
Learning stuff :)
The others arrived and we had a chat -- Lexi and I vulturing the well-behaved horses who were all standing still.   hahaha ah well -- nobody seemed to mind.  (Vulturing - to the uninitiated - is a GRS term for those who pace circles around somebody else...)  Anybody who hadn't arrived with their stirrups shorter than they'd ridden stadium, were asked to shorten them.  With speed, the horse's centre of gravity moves forward -- so too must the rider and shorter stirrups make this easier.  They're also critical for properly absorbing drop fences.  Mine were already cranked up so no worries there -- good thing as I'm not sure we would've paused long enough to fix!

So you'll remember (if my blog post wasn't too incoherent!) - stadium day was all about creating the quality canter.  XC day was all about applying it.  On Sunday Lexi hadn't so much learned about a quality canter as learned about a canter *g*  hahaha but sobeit. So we were to trot around a bit -- mostly to give Lexi a chance to find her brain -- and then canter.
The only picture I have so far *g*  I particularly love the flying mane!
And this actually went really well.  She was super-high, but nowhere near the drama of the Lucinda clinic.  We went forward in the gait I wanted mostly in the direction I wanted :)  And even though our first canter was to the right, she picked up the lead like an old pro :)  Yeah!  And then my photographer told me my camera wasn't working :(  Booo.   Fortunately both Adriana and Kitty had cameras and were happy to document our adventures; unfortunately, I don't have those photos yet!

And then it was time to jump.  Our first task was to trot or canter away from our circle around a mini-trakhener and out over a tiny log that's part of the coffin.  To put this in perspective for those who know my place, I doubt that log's any bigger than the one people sit on in the back field :)   If you chose to trot in, the rule was you had to canter away.  Jumping toward the barn, but with a convenient fence in front of them so they wouldn't be too excited.  Perfect start.  And Lexi's first ever xc fence was beautiful!  YEAH!!!!
Our first XC fence ever!
Our second attempt we were told to canter the approach.  My training with babies on XC has always been similar to Lucinda's teaching -- very slow, very quiet.  But came to learn so go with what I was told and canter gamely on with no questions asked.  Absolutely perfect.  Sweet.

Then we moved on to a "real" xc jump.  There are very few E or smaller jumps on this property but this was one. Totally suitable, but definitely bigger than anything she's jumped with a rider on *g*  Totally inviting little hogsback on level ground.  Perfect.  Get told to canter it as it's a little big to trot.  Ummmm sure, why not? >;-P   Right - well we held our line and we went over it.  I got *launched* -- the photos from that one that I haven't gotten yet will be laughed at and then promptly deleted.  Frig.   Fully expected to do it again, but no, change direction and jump it the other way.   And you know what?  She was pretty much a pro star.  Super stoked at my baby horse.

Here Blyth made a point of reminding people to watch their transitions.  Don't just boot your horse from a halt to a gallop.  Establish a good trot first and then a decent canter transition.  Often the horses get hot on XC because the riders get hot.  If you take your time and give them a chance, they'll respond accordingly.  And with consistent reminders before every start, several horses that had been quite hot settled really nicely.

Then...  *insert jaws theme music here* the tires.  Expected discussion about the scariness factor of tires and how to ride them.  After the barrels at the Lucinda clinic I'd been expecting some serious drama about tires so yesterday on our xc walk I led her up to them to see.  Far less drama than I'd expected (remember the plastic hay bales in the arena?  Couldn't even get her *near* those).   Placed some mints on the jump for her and the world was good.  So today I trotted toward it while the others were still getting organized.  Fairly defensive ride.  And she hesitated -- but totally gave it a solid effort!  I was so proud of her.  Not even any drama!  And since Blyth didn't see it, she got to go again :)  And she was all for it!  No hesitation at all and happily cantering away all proud of herself afterwards.  Woohoo!  Pony likes this game.
What a superstar!
Did another random fence -- one that's slightly more vertical and on an uphill.  We trotted it the first time when Blyth wasn't looking *g*   And then cantered it bravely on the second attempt.  Super good both times!
Second attempt = super confident.
Next was an exercise made out of show jumps, with a vertical on top of the hill then 4-5 strides to a skinny at the bottom of the hill.  Again, the focus was on quality of the canter and maintaining rhythm and balance down the hill.   Equitation discussion about the importance of controlling your upper body -- jumping ahead or throwing your shoulders when you need to land balanced on a downhill doesn't just look ugly, it's very unsafe.   Being the baby group, we got to introduce this one fence at a time, starting with the skinny at the bottom.  Lexi even had permission (more than that, was strongly encouraged) to do it at trot the first time.  Yeah *g*  And she did look at it, but she held her line and popped over it and cantered away.  Next try in canter.  I couldn't believe how well she responded when I asked her to tuck her butt under her and keep it there down the hill.  Amazingly well balanced.  I'm still kinda stunned about that actually -- this exercise was the one that impressed me the most from her response.  Nice and soft in my hands, focused on what she was doing, and in this great collected canter (ummm to put in perspective, still longer than most of the other horse's regular canters, but for her, it was amazing!)  So then the first fence got added in and away we went -- absolutely prostar.  Had a slight serpentine effect the first time, but really not bad at all.  Second try straight and confident.  Woohoo!!!   And all this coming in in canter as well.  Yeah.

The next exercise was the mini trakhener.  I waivered on this one and then opted out.  Part of me is really disappointed and part of me is saying I *finally* made an adult decision.  Being an adult sucks >;-P   You're supposed to finish any training session saying "we could've done more" -- and I absolutely feel we could've done that.  And if it had been an exercise at the *end* of the school instead of the beginning, I think we would've done it.  But at that point I thought we had probably an 80% chance of getting over it.  The problem is, if we'd ended in the other 20% it would've been the kind of drama that makes for great blog posts.  hahaha and at the moment, my horse is tackling everything I ask of her -- I *really* don't want to scare her.  And I know from previous experience that that ditch, while tiny, is deep and houses monsters.   Blyth didn't push one way or the other.  He said he thought she could do it, but as she has so little ditch experience might be better not to.  So we opted out.  

But even opting out was a schooling experience, because to get to the line Blyth wanted them to take, all the other horses were out of Lexi's sight.  I expected all kinds of drama from this -- but I knew the first one would be back in a minute or two so figured I'd just deal with whatever I got...  But no - I don't think Lexi even noticed they left.  She was being sucky with one of the spectators and occasionally munching grass.  And tired.  Did I mention tired?  More cantering in two days than in her entire life.  hahaha  So yeah, standing quietly while the herd left and then came galloping back one at a time -- pretty good schooling.

I am disappointed we didn't jump it though.  Logically I think it was the right choice.  Emotionally, I wanted to do it.  Ah well.

Next was an introduction to corners -- built out of stadium rails.  We were running parallel to the hill and the skinny side of the corner was on the downhill, making it all kinds of inviting.  For Lexi's first go, he didn't make it any narrower, but he put the two wide ends on the ground so the inviting low side drew her away from the inviting runout.   This one had a long canter approach and he wanted us up off the horse's back.  A few people were doing a posting canter -- not acceptable.  To ride xc you have to be fit and balanced enough to stay up off your horse or you make them work far harder than they should.  The other thing he repeated often was "sit up but don't sit down" -- shoulders up and back, but no weight in the saddle.  Use your legs or stick if necessary to create impulsion, don't shove with your seat.  
Lexi's pretty sure she can jump the moon.
He warned me she'd probably break to trot right before the fence to inspect it.  She hesitated briefly but surprising us all, jumped it out of the canter :)  Woohoo!   So then he put the ends up and we went again.  We got to a wickedly brutal distance but she tried her heart out for me and cleared it to tons of pats.  He used this as an example of a couple things.  First, why the adjustable canter is so important.  He said I rode it properly, but she didn't have the strength or the knowledge to come back when I asked her to.  Second, why you introduce things like this with stadium fences or tiny jumps so that if they miss horribly, they don't get hurt.  She cleared it, but potentially...   And third how important it is to reward your horse and that they trust you. She tried her heart out there -- she didn't have to do that.  And if she'd been scared or something negative had happened in her history, she probably wouldn't have.

Anyways, with Lexi having no idea anything wrong had happened, it was time for our first little mini-course.  Tires, over the drop jump through the trees, then up the bank.  Introduced with discussion about how to ride the drop fence (typical ski-jump type, twice the size on landing as on take-off, but tiny on take-off).  Focus on weight in the irons and irons under your body.  Equitation isn't just to make you look pretty, it's important because it's what's effective.  And also about slipping the reins.  Slipping them - not dropping them.  Just allow the horse to take what they need.

So we *cantered* the tires -- and she took me to them!  Was amazing!  hahhaa but then it kind've all fell apart.  You see, to get to the drop fence, we had to go through a fairly thick treeline...  Sucked way back to the slowest trot and zig-zaged  our way through, and then her eyeballs just about bulged out of her little head when she noticed the drop, but a tap with the stick on takeoff had her going (impressive -- she doesn't usually respond well to the stick, but it was the only option I had at that moment.  I certainly wasn't about to take my leg off to kick!).  Then we had a fairly discombobulated canter but did eventually manage to scramble our way up the bank and canter away.  Slightly less than brilliant, but she did do everything on the first try at least!
Pats for the cantering pony
As for the stick -- in later groups Blyth was actively teaching that technique and recommending people practice it before they ever need it.  The ability to take your hand off the reins at the last second and use the stick behind your leg on takeoff when you feel that last-second hesitation.  Esp at ditches, trakheners, drops into water, etc...

The rest of the group next practiced jumping the grown-up trakhener.  This would've been beyond Lexi even if we had done the baby one, so we sat this one out.  Good practice watching everybody leave her again.  We did head over so we could at least try jumping the bank down, which she didn't beautifully and went for a lovely canter afterwards :)
Emily and Mya giving us a lead into the water
Then it was down to the water -- Lexi was so much braver about this this time.  We took a lead the first trip walking and then trotting through!  Woohoo.  Then she got to trot through on her own -- such a star :)   Next it was canter through and jump after (not out of the water -- a couple strides on dry land).  The jump was big by Lexi standards *g*   We weren't able to maintain the canter in the water, but at least had a solid trot.  She started to go towards the jump but then all the other horses disappeared in front of her (they went around a corner) and she hesitated pretty seriously.  We got over it, but it definitely wasn't our prettiest or most confident jump of the day *sigh*.   Then it was jump in, canter through the water.  Warning here that anybody who chose to get ahead of the motion over the jump would be swimming *g*   I loved the surprised tone "are you going to do this?" he asked.  Ummmm sure, why not?  We've already jumped the fence and been in the water.  "You better sit up and be prepared for a stop."
Making a splash!
No problem.  hahaha my super pony jumped the log like she was an old school master.  Came back to trot for the water, but continued through it without stopping.  Woohoo!  hahaha I was so proud of her.  So with lots of pats, we called it on that.   I was sort of amused though that others trotting through the water was okay, but when others cantered through the water she'd have a mini-meltdown each time.  I parked her a little farther away so she was a 'safe' distance from the scary noises and let her hang out while the rest finished their school.  They added in a jump out and then they were done.   
Not 100% sure, but certainly willing to try!
Emily hacked back with me because I wanted to detour via the baby ditch, and she offered to both babysit and give a lead.  Well I tell ya, Lexi was all for this.  I was just going to walk her over it, but oh no - she focused on the obstacle, picked up a canter, cleared it by a ridiculous amount, and booked it up the hill.  I was all set for a wicked buck but it never happened.   SOOOO happy with my superpony.  Of course the walk back was terribly spooky and we nearly trampled a pedestrian or two, but you know, other than that *g*

I'll be grinning like this for days!
So what I found really interesting for me with the two clinics back to back.  Lucinda's methodology is more what I'm comfortable with.  But Blyth's worked way better for Lexi.  Now to be fair, if we hadn't done Lucinda's clinic first, I think this one would've been a bit much for Lexi's first ever outing.  But since she had at least seen a ditch and a bank before, this worked amazingly well for her.  By the end she was taking me to the fences, super eager and super confident and just overall having a blast.  Woohoo!

And then I got to take more photos :)   For those who are interested, links below.  Feel free to pass on to any and all.  Settings are such so that no FB account is needed to view.  Quality is, umm less than professional at times *g*   I'm trying to learn to work the advanced features of my camera, so rapid-fire, auto-mode, and wide "to be cropped later" zoom are all turned off.  Varying degrees of success. hahaha 




XC - Group 2 and a tiny portion of Group 3: