Here there be dragons...

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

#FridayFlash 51: The Call

I stared at my phone, willing it to ring. And obligingly it did -- but it was just Amy texting me to see if I wanted to meet her for lunch. I fired off a brief message, hands shaking. Wondering if I'd be any sort of company for her that day; knowing she'd forgive me if I wasn't. The job of a lifetime; a cumulation of years of work and study and scrapping my way up from the know-nothing errand kid. And it was within reach -- they told me I'd find out today. When I was in highschool my girlfriends waiting anxiously for the phone for some boy to call, and I never entirely respected them for it. If I wanted to talk to some boy, I called him; this was pretty much a non-issue in my world. I'd never before been subject to the power of a silent phone. But now I got it -- the balance between hope they'd call and fear they wouldn't and the wicked emotional shifts that entailed. Only in my case, I knew they'd call, but what worried me was what they'd say. The other candidate was as qualified as I; the job would be based on those intangibles. Who's a "good fit" for the company? Who do they like better? Who'll look best representing them in front of the cameras? I was not a girly-girl, but I definitely took my time preparing for that interview! The phone buzzed and my heart leapt. And then hope faded as I saw the text icon. "Any news yet?" -- the sender deserved to be shot. It's a shame; he was a good friend till that moment. My heart settled back to its normal rhythm as I stared at the screen I'd already read eight times that morning and still had not registered, my mind full of those two powerful words: "what if". I knew I was being ridiculous -- either it would happen or it wouldn't, but nothing I could do at this point would influence it so I may as well be productive. Sadly logic lost the war to emotion, and I continued to stare blankly at my screen, with occasional glances at my phone. My hands were cold, and I could hear my heart pounding. It didn't even usually do that on a 5k run. I looked around at my co-workers -- did any of them notice something was not-quite-right? For all of them, it was just another day. But for me, it might be THE day. But I wouldn't know until they called. I sat, as the seconds past like hours. Every once in a while moving the mouse so my screen would stay lit. Always thinking of what could be... And what might not. The phone buzzed again; a quick look at the screen showed a number I hoped would one day be mine. My hands shook and I nearly dropped the phone as I tried to answer it, but I was proud that my voice came out calmly and professionally, "Good afternoon, Sarah speaking."

Edward Gal and Totilas @ WEG

If you haven't seen this yet, enjoy! Sorry, I couldn't find it in English :)

The Long Version

So I have been informed that "that was an amazing ride" is insufficient detail :) hahaha so here's the elaboration of last night's ride...

Basically anybody who's had a lesson with me in the last couple weeks will know what I was up to cause it's the same one I've been making them do :) I was waiting for a rainy day (literally - wanted to be inside so I didn't have to move an entire course to arrange it) and finally had one (don't need any more for a while now :).

So this exercise involves 6 poles on the centre line, each set 9' apart. 9'? What do you do w/ 9' spacing? Yeah we'll get there. And, with a little bit of creativity, will take you through steps 1-3 on our infamous dressage pyramid (that'd be rhythm, suppleness, contact for those who are temporarily drawing a blank on that :). And to be quite honest it could take you through the other 3 steps too -- but really, I'm sitting on a 6yo OTTB, who's built kinda like, well, a race horse. Imagine that >;-P So as a result, we don't worry too much about those lofty steps way up there -- any day we make it to step 3 is a good day :)

In the w/u the focus is entirely rhythm. Lengthening and shortening the stride while keeping the same rhythm, and because I know how this particular horse's mind works, the occasional insertion of basic lateral activities (shoulder fore and leg yield mostly) otherwise long and short quickly leads to gallop and halt -- which, while super for a reining horse, is generally frowned upon in the dressage ring *g*

Once she's moving freely and generally responsive we trot through the poles. Focus on holding a straight (see I told you the higher levels could come in!) line on exactly a 4.5' trot stride. The first time through was slightly less than graceful hahaha but after that the world was good. So then we did a serpentine or two using the poles as guides (ie left around the first two, straight between the second and third, right around three and four, straight between four and five, left around five and six). This was still pretty casual. Generally going the right direction but in a fairly long frame and not really engaging in the turns. Could've been for the stronger dr horses for sure -- but we only have so much strength in that hind end and there was a lot I wanted to do :)

Next step... In walk. Nice forward power walk. And with my horse that's an exercise all on its own *g* But sobeit. Establish said walk and point at the first pole. After pole one, before pole two, turn left and ride a circle that takes you back to the center of pole one. Walk straight over pole one AND pole two, then turn right before pole three and right a right circle that takes you back to the middle of pole two. Walk straight over poles two and three and turn left... Rinse and repeat >;-P So essentially at every pole you're riding a circle that is at absolute most 18' (and since I do striding in feet and circles in meters that requires translation -- it's slightly over a 5m circle!). Craziness. AND trying to get your horse unbent and properly straight inbetween. Focusing on accuracy of the circle (bend, shape, etc) and rhythm (no you can't slow down!). Let me tell you, by about the third pole you're thinking two would've been a good place to stop. hahaha

So we do that once or twice and then shake it off and go for a nice power-trot around the ring. Si was all for *that* idea let me tell you :) "Look Laur, look how much I can stretch! Let's just do this now." But alas, all to quickly we have to return to work. Ok so in trot, now in trot that'd be just insane, so instead we'd go over TWO poles, circle right, trot straight over four (insisting on the 4.5' stride we perfected earlier), circle left over poles three and four, straight over four through six, circle right over five and six. No problem. She actually did this really really well. Far better than in the walk. I was pretty thrilled at that :) Other than the minor need to shy at the barrel by E that'd been there the whole time but you don't go close to it in the smaller circle *g* Classic.

Off for a stretchy-canter around the ring. N what a canter it was too -- way up in the back. Pretty kewl :)

And then I got ambitious -- remember that idea that the walk exercise was too small for the trot? Well it probably is, but we did it anyways :) hahaha And it was *hard*. Really hard. For both of us. hahaha I'd say she really got two out of the six circles on any given attempt, but man they were about as close to perfect as it gets. And the others? Well there's no need to discuss those :) Needless to say we didn't do many repeats of that as she was trying SOOOO hard and while she's much stronger than she used to be, she's still not *that* strong. And after the twisty-turny trot circles the best halt at G ever. Square. Straight. And right from the trot. I was pretty happy at that.

So we leave the twisty-turniness and go for a canter around the ring. She settled into this lovely round UPhill canter (definitely not in her contract usually) so I thought I'd play with it a bit. Asked her to lengthen and instead of our usual scoot-forward-and-down variation she just floated a little higher and covered slightly more ground. So *that's* how it's supposed to work >;-P hahaha absolutely amazing. And then she topped that by actually coming back to me and collecting (which, to be honest, usually ends up with us in a horrible trot). Nice, balanced, organized. I was sooooo excited. (I think the resident h/j people were a little puzzled as to how I could be so happy with dressage :) So yes, we left it on that *g*

For the curious -- the canter variation of the exercise is usually circling *around* certain poles in reducing numbers (ie circle around 4 of them, then 3, then 1 -- good luck w/ that!, etc. 2 doesn't work so well unless you've got really short poles). The striding doesn't work so well to go over them the way it did in the trot, because of course it's set on a 9' stride -- and we usually aim for a 12' canter stride. If you're working on the collection thing you can bounce your way down the centre line :) Or if you're sitting on a pony :) But we skipped all those steps for today.

And *that* is the long version of yesterday's post :)

Better late than never...

For any who may be interested, the pics of Mum's and my Banff trip are *finally* up: here. Enjoy! Awesome dq ride today. Yes, believe it or not, those words do come together every once in a while :) Amazed at my superstar pony!!! hahaha

Returning from the edge of the world...

So I sort of fell off the world... It's been a couple insane weeks. But I'm back now (almost!) hahaha and hopefully will have a new flash this week, and if the world is really good, new theory thursday next week. I can't believe it's Oct already! Sheesh. But I am pretty excited somebody actually requested a topic so that's a promising start :) On a completely unrelated note -- want a free education? The Kahn Academy is attempting to provide it. One of the winners of Google's 10^100 project. Sort of interesting :)

New games to play :)

From GRS Blog. So I have a new favourite coaching book :) Celebrity Jumping Exercises (I know, what an awful title eh?) While I've seen most (not all but most - one I hadn't seen I'm quite looking forward to trying :) of these exercises before, this book adds a theory element which, as one who always needs to know why and how, I really appreciate. For each contributor there's a page about their coaching philosophy and then the recommended exercise with usually a few variations. I'm finding the "theory" pages in some ways far more interesting and valuable than the exercises themselves. Which I know is not the intent and wouldn't be the case for many, but really there are lots of books of jumping exercises out there (I have a shelf full!) and some of them are excellent. What makes this one different is getting a little background from each of the contributors. There is also a space for who listing who *shouldn't* be attempting the exercise, which I think is a wise addition. I picked it up because I'm going to be attending a clinic with one of the contributors and wanted to get an idea of what the focus of the clinic is likely to be. I'm pretty excited about it now :) hahaha So enjoy! Great ride today. I was super tired and really had very little interest in working *g* Warmed up, jumped her around a little. She was relaxed but focused and willing. Randomly trotted her over the castle (the new and exciting jump -- actually *really* like this one :) and my pony who had a complete meltdown a few weeks ago at those silly purple boxes, treated this like the least of speedbumps. hahaha superstar! So I was pretty excited about that.

Trolls and jaguars and jumps, oh my!

So a couple days ago I had this as my status message on FB: "riding... teaching... teaching... riding... teaching... Is there any better way to spend a sunny fall day?" which received this comment: "You remind me of a Chinese proverb I live by 'if you love the job you do, you'll never work a day in your life'" N I thought that was pretty kewl. And reasonably accurate. Lessons all went well and I had two great rides - and at that point, it really doesn't seem so much like work :) Today was equally good, ending with an amazing xc school! So I took Sienna out on her own (oooohhhhh, ahhhhhh) hahaha. She's hacked alone a few times -- always super high when we do, but reasonable. Has never schooled XC alone, so I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Took her to a farm she's been to several times and she was kewl with it. Quiet while I tacked up and headed out. Went for a walk around our usual walk w/u field. A little looky, but still super quiet. The world is good. Go into the middle field and trot around, up and down some hills, she's alert, but paying attention. And we had a power trot and a half. Soooooo much fun. Jump over a few things, she lands cantering, nice and forward and ridable. And the best part -- she was actually taking me to the jumps. Not running at all but clearly had her job figured out and was all for it :) The kind of feeling you *want* going up to a XC fence! So we jump this one PT fence out of a nice power trot. She's focused, knows where she's going and what she's doing, but jumps the fence with a little more enthusiasm than is technically necessary and takes "land and go" to a bit of a new level. WHEEEEEE. hahaha She's getting the hang of trotting down hills, but cantering isn't really solid yet so I didn't *really* want her to gallop down. Fortunately I still had steering installed so I suggested we go UP the hill instead and she was kewl with that. And by the top was willing to come back. hahaha all good. I might've been a *little* bit run-away with but not bad :) Couldn't stop but could still steer so tis all good. Decided at this point perhaps some hill work would be a good idea. To get to the hills have to go through a tree line. Suggested trotting through but she wasn't entirely confident about that, so we took a mini walk-break to get us through the trail (that is guarded by fierce horse-eating TROLLS!!!! -- ummm these'd be rocks to the rest of us :) Once we got in the field though, the hill work actually went really well. Nice connected power trot up and reasonably balanced trot down. So we hop up the little bank back into the other field and trot around some more and I decide to try the pass-through in a trot again. Second time we did *technically* do it in a trot, albeit the slowest, most collected trot you've ever seen, while giving the trolls the evil-eye stare :) Now the bank that we'd already gone up once is actually part of a combo. A small (2'6" if you stretch your imagination) skinny, bending line to the bank. So since from this direction both the skinny and the bank are on our way back to where I want to be, I figure why not try it? No problem right? Ok well we landed from the skinny in a forward canter. But a nice rideable forward canter. And I know how the striding works having ridden this particular combo several hundred times on a dozen horses over the past few years, so I keep said canter to the bank... And it was lovely. Balanced. Rocked back on her hocks. Just what you want coming up to a bank. But I could feel the sheer power coiled there. hmmmm remember the land and go theory? And remember we've been *only* jumping out of a trot? There's a reason for that. The bank? No problem. Jumped it like an old pro. Then tucked her butt underneath her and was gone. *Very* proud of herself. Even tried to throw a buck of joy or two (still not a strength of hers, which is not a bad thing :). But she's flying -- and flying right towards the baby-bank. Ummmm less of a good plan. Got enough steering to get her beside it instead of off it which could *not* have ended well. But at this point we're now heading downhill in racehorse mode on slightly slippery grass with no studs in. hmmmmm that whole not galloping downhill thing? Yeah no longer negotiable. hahaha so this time definitely run away with and it was too funny to hear the "coach voice" in my head rhyming off basic instructions one second *after* my body had already done them (soften your hands, use your body to balance, leave her mouth alone, look where you'd like her to go, etc) A huge opening rein got the turn so we didn't crash into the trees or fall over and then w/ that immediate issue resolved we could play a bit. A few strides later she settled into the most amazing gallop rhythm, totally connected and through and just... Wow. But still a little ummm quick shall we say for the footing and terrain, so since by that point she was listening to me again, I was gradually able to bring her back and a lap and a half after we jumped into the field we were back in a trot. hahaha So we jump around a few more very quietly. She's pretty high now, but listening. So we're walking and I figure we'll go into the other final field, jump a handful of fences and then cool out. No problem right? Yeah you know better by now :) Well you see, there were cows turned out right beside that field. N Sienna had been able to see them from the second field, but hadn't really cared. So we walk through the treeline n I'm kinda thinking how nice it is to have a city horse who doesn't actually care about cows (esp after some of the others I've ridden!). Except that immediately on the other side of the scary treeline was a big black cow. And it was looking right at her. Well in Sienna's world, that's not a cow, it's a jaguar. And it's about to pounce. She spun and put her previous gallop to shame. And to make matters worse, I lost my balance on the spin which scared her even more. AND I knew that the direction she was heading ended in a dead-end very quickly. This would be a more serious version of being run away with. Managed to regain my balance, reorg my reins, get off her mouth, and get my body far enough back so that if we hit the dead end and she somehow *didn't* fall, I'd still be on. There are a few careers that require you to appear and speak calmly outwardly when inwardly your mind is going a million miles a minute and your heart is racing. Cops. Paramedics. ER doctors. These are all really important careers where that skillset is necessary and worth ingraining. Horseback riding? Yeah probably not worth the time or effort it took to train. But in moments like that I'm forever grateful I have. Because my horse knows and understands both "woah" and "steady" (and also "wait" but that one didn't come into play today) when said in the right tone. And despite the fact that at that instant that was as far from my little mind as it could possibly be (I was still working on staying on and trying to think through a plan for if I couldn't get her stopped in time), it came out in a way that meant something to her. And we stopped. Less than a stride before the dead-end. Of course the second we stopped she spun to check on the jaguar situation, but this not being the *first* scared horse I've sat on, I fully expected that. hahaha. She grew an extra hand or two and her ears tickled my nose. Her whole body was quivering. The second time that day I was sitting on her thinking "there's an awful lot of power here ready to explode." I guess that means I've finally got her strong :) But, to her credit, she didn't lose it. It took me probably 15 minutes to get her back to roughly were we started. The jaguars had clearly already feasted for the day since they were not the least bit interested in us. But WAIT. One is cutting through the other field to stalk us from behind! Poor Si was just about spinning. The new jaguar? A rather large black *horse* that had been ridden the whole time Si and I were out -- always in another field (we shared one field for about 10 seconds). The whole ride she'd been aware of the horse, but not concerned about it. But now. Now that she knew about the horrible black monsters plotting to EAT her, now it was scary. *sigh* Eventually I got her to walk a few circles in the vicinity of the jaguars; I decided at that point that more XC was not going to help the situation but I did take her into the sandring for some baby stadium. Now from here she could still see the scary monsters, but there was now a fence between us (well two technically, but the wire one she couldn't see very well clearly wasn't sufficient before :). So we trotted a couple fences in there -- the ones away from the cows were barely sufficient speedbumps. The ones toward were complete slow-motion jumps followed by an attempt to spin and run on the landing side. On the plus side, not once did she hesitate at a fence or consider not jumping it. YEAH!!!!! So when I got two quiet jumps in each direction with holding the line on the landing (and splashing through the "water obstacle" - aka large puddle), I deemed us done for the day and we went for a walk hack around our original w/u field. Except that when we were there she was now seriously stressed about the treelines. After all, jaguars could be lurking on the other side! *sigh* And since I can't have her stressing about treelines, this meant we couldn't quite be done. Headed back to the second field and walked along that treeline (it's ok, but she was actively searching for the monsters on the other side of the field). Up around our giant hill again. She started to relax somewhere near the top. Down the hill, through the treeline. Actually no problem. So we're back in the second field, nearing the pathway that had been so exciting again, and she saw them. But she just stopped and raised her head. Ok, progress. I got her to walk quietly and round and asked her for a square halt (our thing at home -- no dismounting till she's reasonably square). And to be fair to her, while one eye was definitely on the cows, she did listen to me. So I dismounted there, loosened the girth and took off her flash. Then took her over to let her graze by the monsters. Now by this point they had meandered slightly farther away then they had been originally and none of them were paying her the slightest amount of interest. But even still, she watched them with all systems on alert for a good five minutes before deeming it safe enough to take a 1/2 second break to grab the fastest mouthful of grass ever and then go back to watching them. We did this for a while till she would sort-of graze. Still tense but better. Then walked through the treeline to the other side and repeated the process. And then, finally, we could go home :) I have to say though that other than the rather unfortunate timing of the jaguars at the end of our ride, it was by far the most fun I've had with my pony this summer. And most importantly *she* was enjoying it too!

Really, is there any better way to spend a sunny fall evening?

From GRS Blog Went to school XC the other night and it was just plain fun. hahaha absolutely perfect weather. Sunny. Cool enough to gallop and jump but not so cool as to make them super spinny. Brought Si and one other -- a greenbean on her first ever XC outing. hahaha always lots of fun :) But we had all the time in the world and the entire property to ourselves, so the odds of a successful school were in our favour. I'm loving the fact that Si is getting reasonably good about being tied to the trailer. It really does make life soooooo much easier. I'm still really cautious about it and only do it when she's quiet etc, but starting to leave her slightly longer or farther away. She didn't move a foot either tacking up or untacking. Completely chilled about the whole process. So I was pretty happy at that. R was having more of a challenge as her horse walked a zillion little circles while she got ready. But eventually we were both on and ready to go. Started by just going for a very long walk. And essentially walked until the greenbean was *willing* to walk :) She didn't know where she was going, but she was going to get there NOW. Si was not the least bit interested in keeping up w/ her power walk: "yeah... about that... I'd rather just stroll along thanks." Comeon pony, do the words "Working Walk" mean anything to you? Apparently they're not in her contract. We need to go out with these guys more often n teach Sienna to Walk. hahaha So we walked for a while n then did a couple little trots that went well followed by a reasonably long trot w/u, letting the young horse settle and both horse and rider get a little more comfortable with the whole uphill/downhill idea. Si was being super quiet this whole time. Like school-pony quiet. So we trot around a bit and greenbean does her first EVER xc fence. Like a pro star :) A log with rocks under it. hahaha but the rocks were covered with grass so I'm not sure her rider even knew they were there. *g* Sometimes that's for the best. Jumped with perfect hunter form (prob a good thing since she's destined to be a hunter :) and canters away in a lovely rhythm. And Si? Pretty well tripped over it. hahaha So we jumped around a bunch of fences. Greenbean was an absolute pro. Even went up the bank! Superstars :) N Si for the first time ever showed no hesitation w/ going down the bank. Now maybe it's time to graduate to grown-up banks :) Greenbean was starting to have a bit more fun than her rider *really* wanted so we took a break from jumping to go for a hack. UPhill. hahaha a couple laps up and down the hill and Si was trotting beautifully and greenbean had settled again quite nicely. So they took a little break and hung out while I jumped Si around a bit. N it was sooooooo nice. Just trotting and cantering over PE/E and the odd PT level fences. But it was forward and willing and rateable with little to no hesitation and what tiny hesitation I got, when I told her that yes I really did want her to go over, she did. It's the horse I had this spring. And it was so nice to see her again :) And all this time greenbean just sits still quietly, completely focused on where we were and what we were doing, but not the least bit concerned about the fact that she wasn't doing it. Almost like she was just learning her course while waiting her turn :) I was pretty impressed by that. hahaha So we went to another area that has more greenbean fences and she got to jump her own course. Which she did with only the occasional demonstration of overly ambitious enthusiasm and WHEEEE moments. hahaha finish with a nice calm hack and some grazing by sunset and then good to go :) Was just a super-nice way to spend the evening.

Random babbling on teaching influences

So I got my blog printed not long ago -- even though, let's be honest, I'm not about to sit there and read through the book again :) But flipping through occasionally is kinda fun. So the other day I open it to a random page and read all about Denny's discussion of how to deal with the frustration of hitting a plateau in training and even going backwards. And the difference between those who make it and those who don't lying in the ability to recognize and accept that part of the sport. hahaha some things are timely eh? Worked though - remotivated me to go ride my horse :) hmmmm I don't like that my spellcheck flagged remotivated. Why is it ok to demotivate something but not remotivate it? Does that not point to an awfully depressing society? hahaha ok stuffing English student back in the closet. Enough of that :) So after a somewhat unrelated conversation with a student the other day, I got to thinking about the coaches who I've had who've most influenced my teaching (as opposed to my riding). Of all the coaches I've had and all the clinics I've been to, there're still really only three that have seriously altered the way I teach. (I steal snippits from everybody of course -- there's always a different way of explaining something, or a new exercise or analogy to use... but these ones in particular). Two were, at different points in my career, instrumental in helping me develop my eye. Both by example (in both cases very good technical coaches themselves and I vulture more than my share of lessons) and by occasionally overseeing my lessons or commenting on something that seems to be not-quite-right with a student or suggesting another focus. And it's thanks almost exclusively to these two that I have what ability I do to decipher the route of a problem from its symptoms -- which then enables me to figure out a way to fix it. Definitely a critical skill. But the third coach on my list is the one that to me made the most interesting difference. Because really, I'm an academic at heart -- I'm going to figure out what's broken and how to fix it. Be it through stupid amounts of study or training or whatever. Those two coaches HUGELY accelerated the process *g* but I still believe I would've gotten there. This third coach though (who was chronologically inbetween the other two), she taught me to have fun :) It seems so simple really. But every coach I've ever ridden with has been reasonably formal in their coaching. They give the instruction, you follow it, you get better. And that's what I did when I first started working for her. But I realized pretty quickly that her lessons were a lot more fun. Both she AND her students laughed and joked around and had a good time. And they didn't respect her any less for that -- if anything they were *more* likely to come help out around the barn etc. And so slowly, mostly w/ the little kids at first (and there were a LOT of little kids at this barn) I started to relax and actually enjoy teaching. I'd goof around with them and be silly and I figured out pretty quickly how to establish the line between having fun and getting the job done (years later N would come to refer to it as my "coach voice" hahaha which still always makes me laugh when she says it, but she's kinda got a point :) As in, yes I'm glad we're all having a good time, but it's really critical that you listen to this or whatever you're about to attempt is going to end in horrible failure *g* It's amazing what can be conveyed with tone eh? And if I thought of it at all, I would've put it down to experience -- easier to relax when you're confident in your abilities. But most of the more formal coaches I've ridden with have far more experience than I even now. So that doesn't really apply. So I was thinking back to where that shift came and it was definitely due to that one coach; who, to be honest, I didn't learn a ton from as far as technical skills go, but as far as coaching personality I think she pretty much single-handedly evolved my career :) And for teaching theory too. I've never laughed so hard as watching her teach beginner terminology through charades! You can imagine... So yeah I just thought it was interesting thinking through the random influences that aren't expected and how thoroughly they can change things.

If historical events had FB status messages

Ok so we know I'm a geek, but I found this fairly entertaining so thought I'd share :) Click any image to see it larger. Enjoy!

A lesson and a half...

Alright so I have to say that being a pedestrian down near the ROM today with both TIFF and last day of UofT frosh week on was quite the experience *g* And we'll leave it at that :) So I had a lesson today that shortly after getting off my horse and cooling her out, my legs went "ok Laur, we've had enough, it's time to sit down now." hahaha It's really not too often that I end up tired after a ride, but it *does* happen once in a while. And pony? Yeah she was sleeping in the roundbale. This same lesson apparently left other people puzzling over how, precisely, this exercise would be approached :) The short version: this lesson is the stuff Stephy's nightmares are made of. For the loooooong version, read on: Now some of you may be aware that the last few weeks have ranged from interesting to exciting to thoroughly frustrating -- sometimes all at the same time. So after last week's ride I spent this week simply chilling her out (some days that took longer than others!) We did one day of "real" (or as close as we get anyways :) dressage and a whole bunch of w/t/c around in relaxed hunter frame. And we walked and trotted over a ton of 2'6" fences. Over and over and over again mixed in with the shoulder in, transitions, bending, etc so there was never anything exciting about it. And yesterday, FINALLY, she was behaving herself like a school pony. Quiet, relaxed, willing. A little sticky still, but always accomplishing point A to point B on the first try. So this is good. And because it was good, I was half expecting to be on psycho-mare today. But I got on her and she was the same horse I got off yesterday. Sweet! Picked her up into a bit more of a dressagy frame, perfect. Let her back down again. Trotted her over a couple tiny fences (in dr length stirrups, so less than pretty) and she stayed quiet. The world is good. Coach shows up and watches for a few seconds. "She looks really good. Relaxed." So I explained a bit about our week and what's been good and what's not. And somewhere in there I mentioned that cantering a pole on a circle had created some tension -- that we worked through, but still... And left it at that. So I keep working my horse as he starts moving fences around while I continue warming up. "Wow, where's Lauren today?" hahaha took me a sec to translate that to he had watched our absolutely perfect canter transition (a fairly rare occurrence) and this was a good thing. "I left her at home and brought the one who knows how to ride." >;-P So then he was all annoyed at me for being too critical -- apparently that's his job *g*. So he continues to move poles, giving the odd instruction every once in a while. Apparently the focus of today's lesson is not flat. hahaha as in usually he doesn't even look at a pole till both of us are thoroughly into the dressage-thing. And I happened to glance at what he was building -- at first it looked like our standard of pole in front of little jump. This is what we used to *teach* her to jump, and we return to it every once in a while. Except that the pole was on an angle. And given the angle of said pole I had a strong suspicion this wasn't an accident. Gee thanks. I've spent the last two weeks jumping everything 100% perpendicular, and now my *first* fence is going to be a bending line? Just as well I trotted over a few before he got there *g*. But still all good. But then suddenly there was ANOTHER pole. Wait, canter poles on a curve? Definitely not kewl. We're not particularly good at that on a good day. We can bend (most days :), or we can navigate obstacles. But rarely do we do both at the same time! So I hadn't *quite* wrapped my brain around this being a good idea when he started to move standards over. Wait standards?!?!? That implies JUMPS. Which at that distance means bounces. On a circle. Now one day last year we did A bounce on a circle. It was ummmm entertaining. She was greener then, but at the time far more confident. Since then I don't think we've tried to hold a curving line over anything. And exactly once have we done two bounces in a row -- again when she was happy and eager and into the whole gymnastics thing. But no, he's not done building yet. Trot poles get placed parallel to the bounces, on the inside. And a random set of standards set up on the other side of the circle (think B and E if we had letters - circle slightly bigger than 20m). Ok so school the circle that goes through the single standards and over the trot poles. Keep horse in dressage frame, elevated/round/relaxed etc. Uh huh. hahaha first couple times I lost the shoulder entirely (but managed to keep the roundness and relaxation, just lost the bend a *little*). So eventually we get it right. Ok, trot over the other poles and over the jump, then ride the canter. So after a couple tries we were jumping our one fence well and having the canter rebalanced within a stride or two. Woohoo! Mission accomplished. This is HUGE after the last few weeks. Can we stop now? hahaha fortunately I kept that to my little self... Alright so the second fence goes up. Trot in, stick to the inside, bounce it. Ok... Got through with a significant lack of bend on an off distance and land a *little* fast (like as in I was back at the fences again - going around them - before I had the canter reorganized). Repeat a few times. Eventually get a rideable canter. Ok keep rideable canter and jump the middle of the bounces. On the circle line. In rhythm. Rebalance canter on landing and repeat. So realistically it was do the bounces, go around once to fix the quality of the canter, do the bounces. But after the third or fourth attempt, as we skipped it on the second round, a THIRD fence went up. HEY! >;-P But she navigated her way through. So we did this a few times -- and each time we'd land, balance,e all good, then just after the empty standards there was a scary tarp, that would rattle in the wind and we'd shoot forward and have to start over again. Keep in mind - 25m circle. There's not a lot of room for scooting and running! Also changed it up so it’s big circle w/ jumps, little circle (10m) inside standards without jumps, and back and forth. And eventually we got it a couple times in a row w/o a meltdown or need for a little circle. And we get a decently long walk break. Pony’s tired. That’s a LOT of jumping for one day. We’re done right? Uh huh, how about the other direction. *sigh* So in deference to the fact that she’s been less-than-confident lately, my coach took down the first two fences and let us start by trotting over the last one on its own, the same as we did the first way. We just progressed it a lot faster, moving on to the canter right away, putting the 2nd fence up after about 3 loops, and the third fence up after only one lap. The only concession to the tiredness factor was they were slightly lower. Going this way I had a real challenge holding the line; we had a pretty serious (and scary!) left drift going on, ending us w/ like a 4’ bounce. Hahaha but she started to figure it out and by the end, while still not bent as correctly as she should be for dressage, was much better than how we started. Much easier to keep her focused this direction because we’re not going towards the scary tarp *g* Ok so do that well and take a break. Now we’re done right? Yeah even I didn’t bother to mentally ask the question that time. Remember those empty standards? They got a jump put between them. Jump the vert, half a circle, jump the double bounce, half a circle jump the vert, keep going... No mini rebalancing circles allowed. BUT I got to pick which direction to go first hahaha Yeah me :) Now I could feel Si was *actually* starting to get tired. Seriously. I think that’s the second time I’ve ever felt her tired; the first was during a dressage lesson w/ M some time ago. So we did it right for two consecutive circles and got to stop. For a minute. Turn around and do it the other way. A really bad jump over the vert towards the scary tarp led to a slightly out of control run around the circle where I chose not to point her at the bounces, but control was regained, the vert jumped correctly and we made it to the bounces with some tension but not bad. The next round I got something that resembled relaxation (still very worried about the tarp each time – which was unfortunately immediately upon landing from the vert and about 4 strides before the bounces). But eventually she did it well a couple times in a row and then got to stop. For real this time :) I think I will have a very tired pony tomorrow, although when I checked on her on my way home from teaching tonight she was good and happy and alert, so all good :)

Remounting that soap box

So I have a new rant to go with the coaching rant. (which btw I was thoroughly amazed at how many people came to speak to me about it at the last couple shows. And honoured -- I had no idea most of them were reading *g* It seems that everybody, particularly those from OTHER sports, agree entirely. The main disagreement seems to come from those who've either failed the exam or never even bothered to try it.) Anyways on to today's rant topic: unqualified “horse mom”s – or dads as the case may be. I think the coaching rant is more important because unqualified coaches can screw up all sorts of people, while this issue is more localized, but still... This is the case where Suzy wants a pony so Mommy Dearest goes out and buys her one. However neither Suzy nor Mommy actually know anything *about* horses. Now Mommy’s not entirely stupid, she gets lessons for Suzy and even takes a couple herself. All good right? But what about when Suzy’s riding *outside* of the lessons? Barn rules say Suzy’s too young to ride alone, so Mommy very dutifully “supervises”. But Mommy doesn’t have a clue. I was teaching a novice rider and keeping an eye on this disaster waiting to happen. Twice I saw the young child travel within a few inches of another horse who was *not* pleased at this. Other rider is not much more experienced and doesn’t know enough to get out of the way. (@ this point I’m keeping my, equally novice, student as far away from all this as possible!). After cutting it waaaayyyy too close I broke my own rule and said something. I told the kid that it was really dangerous to pass that close to another horse and that she or her horse could get kicked by this. N kid basically smiles n nods, completely oblivious. But kid is of an age where that’s expected. But her mother says to me “well we were told as long as we stay on the outside that’s just fine. I didn’t know the rule.” And that just stunned me. It’s not a rule. It’s common sense. Or at very least horse sense. And if you don’t have it, you are NOT qualified to be supervising your child. Because you clearly have NO idea what’s dangerous and what’s not. And it’s fair that she not know anything, but then she shouldn’t be in a position of responsibility – my parents aren’t horse people; they would have had no idea in the same circumstance. So they hired qualified people to supervise until supervision was no longer necessary. And that one IS common sense. Anyways, Mommy Dearest was huffy because I dared to suggest her child had done something wrong when she “didn’t know” (ummmm since when is ignorance a legitimate defence? Sorry Officer, I didn’t know I had to obey that speed limit sign. License? Do I need one of those? I didn’t know...) so they left – I’m sure I’m now the barn b there *sigh* - but I’d rather be that than sit by and watch something horrid happen. If either of those riders’ horses had had a personality like my little mare, somebody would’ve been very injured. BEST case, the horse that got too close would be smarter than the rider and would read the other horse’s signs and spin and bolt – perhaps dropping the child on the way, but at least nobody would be kicked. And maybe the child would learn something. Or maybe not. But seriously people, if your child wants to ride and you know nothing about horses or “have been on a trail ride” a few times or had less than a year’s worth of weekly lessons, learn some Basic Ring Rules and hire somebody qualified to be there when your child rides. Ok off soap-box now. The floor is open...

Caption Contest...

So two or three days this week I got to the barn very tired and inclined to just have a short, easy ride and then go home. Right. Did I mention I own a chestnut ottb mare? Each time my short easy ride was, well, not. Like an hour and a half of actual work. So finally today I get there ready to RIDE, and get on a perfectly quite, calm as could be, school-pony wannabe. Classic eh? On the plus side, it was a decent ride and she jumped reasonably well compared to recent days so was pretty happy about that, but just sheesh. hahaha what can you do but laugh? Theoretically could be at least partially attributed to the "tire-em-out" theory of horse training. hahaha but then, remember the fit tb aspect of this equation -- it'd take a lot more than a few at-home rides to tire her out! This being the same horse that a 25k hack didn't even begin to take the edge off. Posting this picture just cause it made me laugh. Suggestions for captions? So your fun site of the day... you know all those tacky souvenirs you get? Michael Huges shows them in context; some of these are quite impressive

Blogs blogs and more blogs!

So I just got the hard copy of my blog in the mail today and am REALLY happy with it! hahaha it's the little things in life eh? But it is a really good quality hardcover book, so pretty excited about that. And it includes all the comments which really make the blog what it is. So please, comment away! It may one day get published :) In exactly one edition *g* So I know there are some people who read my blog just for my stories, which I have to admit, I'm continually both stunned and flattered by :) These people however, generally have little to no interest in the horsey side of things or the day-to-day randomness, and so I lose them as "truly intelligent people" - and fair enough. But very sad. So for these people I've set up an "I'm telling you stories..." blog. The template and layout is still under construction, but the basics are there. So if you are one of said readers (and even if you're not!!!) please please please consider going to visit and letting me know if the layout etc works. And also, if you would, following :) Right now my list is very sadly empty. Booo. Was quite an adventure setting it up. Decided I would use WordPress to publish, mostly cause they have some interesting stats available. Figured out how to copy my Blogger blog into WordPress -- except it's all or nothing. So upload the entire blog and then delete all the extra posts. Ok all good. But then discover WordPress doesn't have following (which I really want) AND you have to pay to manipulate the css. Less kewl. So decide I'm going back to Blogger, but didn't want to go through the whole deleting everything again. So figure ok it was easy to import to WP, why not import the new WP file to Blogger? Oh yeah, cause Blogger doesn't do that *sigh*. So googled a solution that using their host would take my WP file and convert it to something B could read so I could upload it to B. Sheesh. Classic eh? This is why it'd be a good idea to research features *ahead* of time >;-P hahaha ah well. Up and running now. I'm also getting TheoryThursday ready to go again this fall -- will also be blog style cause really, it's just so much easier that way :) It'll be returning in Oct (or so the current plan is anyways :) So now I find myself with FOUR blogs. And no time for one. hahaha should be entertaining if nothing else. Go hard or go home right? So on an entirely different note, my Mum sent me this email thread and I was amused enough that I got her permission to share it. Bonus points to Star TV for good customer service! For several years, StarTV re-broadcast the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on the following night at 10:00pm. I liked to watch the beginning of the show before I fell asleep. When Conan took over the show I stopped watching it and StarTV eventually put something else in that timeslot. When Jay Leno went back to the Tonight Show, I sent an email to StarTV asking that Leno be moved back to the 10:00pm slot. The attached note came today. ------------------------------------------------------- Subject: RE: Tonight Show with Jay Leno Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010 10:44:19 -0400 From: Hi Beverley I am happy to inform you that The Tonight Show with Jay Leno will be returning to the 10pm ET timeslot as of September 6, 2010. Thanks again, Star! Programming ------------------------------------------------- hahaha now you have to note -- her original e (not attached) was sent in March and received a "thank you for your suggestion" type form response, but I thought it was pretty impressive that somebody filed it somewhere AND remembered to answer it months after the fact when the change was made. Given how many such comments they must get about every change they make it says something about their organizational abilities if nothing else :)

Detour into Theology

If you're easily offended feel free to skip this post :)

So I was reading an argument between Evolutionists and Creationists (believe it or not I ended up there from an article that was reporting on some new finds at an archeological dig that we're building a website for). Anyways, I drop myself firmly in the Darwinist camp, but am not learned enough about evolution to contribute anything worthwhile to the debate so I simply read along. In doing so, I found myself interested in the arguments of the scientific people who want to believe the creationist view. One of them contributed this chart as a way of interpreting Genesis to work with current scientific understanding.

Click on image to see bigger version

I mostly see the bible as a really great collection of stories but I did think this was a fairly interesting way of interpreting it for those who would prefer it to be literal. As far as the collection of stories comment goes, one of the most interesting courses I ever took was entitled "Death, Devils and Daemons" and explored many of the books that didn't make it into the Bible (some here others Google'll find for you in a matter of seconds) and the implications thereof. How would things be different if the story of Jesus being an rebellious child was common knowledge? Or if Mary Magdalene being the one Jesus chose to speak to instead of the men were included? I might have more respect for that particular work as truth had its editors been less propagandist in its selections... hahaha ok flame suit on.... Comments?

Have you got what it takes?

Just wanted to share this:

Thursday Tales 1: Who says you can't go home?

Ok so I realize it's not Thursday, but I accidentally got a day off and I just found this group and apparently it's still open for a few days and I liked the image so I thought I'd give it a go. As always, comments very welcome! ----
Photo courtesy of Deviant Art
She stood at the foot of the rickety old bridge with her heart in her throat. The mist rose off the water adding an eeriness to an already tense situation. She had left, 20 years earlier, swearing never to return. And having done so, she was dead to them. She wondered if time would’ve changed them. Her friends. Her family. Whom she’d left behind out of a desperate need to see what lay beyond the bridge. She vividly recalled her mother watching her go. Sad and unable to understand, but willing to accept that the strange girl she’d raised would never fit in. Crossing the bridge was taboo, and strangers from the other side were never accepted. She’d travelled and she’d learned. She’d seen things the village shaman would never allow her to speak of and discovered that the world was made up of villages not unlike her own. Oh sure, the behaviours and rules changed from place to place. Some welcomed foreigners while others killed them. Some valued strength and courage while others revered wisdom and intelligence. But really, each town set its rules to whatever standards it deemed important, and each town expected its inhabitants to follow them. That basic fact never changed. And try though she would, she never found a town she felt at home in. She worried that the village so large in her memory, would seem small in comparison. And she wondered if she was making the right decision. She hadn’t even intended to come here. She didn’t recognize the woods around her – it had been another lifetime when she had walked through them as a young girl on a search for a new life. But she knew the bridge. She’d spent her childhood staring at it and wondering. And she knew her one-time home lay on the other side. Where travellers were not welcome. She knew she should leave. That she had to turn from the village as she had once before. That crossing the bridge would mean death. But never had a family member returned. Surely that would be treated differently from a stranger. She was no threat to them. They had known and loved her as she had them. As she wanted to again. She crossed the bridge. A feeling she barely recognized as hope propelling her to the place she once called home. She looked thorough the mist to the trees and saw a man she recognized. The shaman had changed little from her memories, and as her second foot hit the ground on the villiage side of the bridge he spoke: “You should never have returned.”

Friday Fun

So earlier this week I had a student who had a not-so-great ride but a really good lesson. In that her horse was feeling a little bit ignorant and gave her a fair amount of grief, but she stuck it out and dealt with it and in the end was able to jump him around almost properly. And we had a brief conversation about how a bad ride can lead to actual accomplishments -- like the fact that that same ride 6 mths ago would've ended her in the dirt. A few times. But now, not only was it no problem for her, but she was actually able to positively influence her horse. Woohoo. Fastforward to today... When I definitely had one of those lessons (why is it my life so often mirrors my students'???) Where things were not good and were not pretty but they got significantly better. Flat work was a step down from Tues. Still stiff and huffy but less inclined to work with me on it. *sigh* Get some real basics happening and then plan to jump. Jump setup has 4 fences forming an X in the middle. Which is, of course, the cloverleaf pattern. (Think jump one, turn a circle 10-15m circle, jump the next, turn a circle, continue. Pretend my drawing has the lines centered over every fence -- I'm a much better rider than artist!). This has always been one of my favs. It does, of course, include every box I could find. hahaha but it's very low - in the 2'6 range for all of them. So we jump the first one out of a trot. Land and make a nice civilized, well balanced turn... Oh no wait, that was when I had a sane horse. No no, we landed and bolted. I was 3/4 of the way around the ring before I got her back *sigh* Turn around, jump the same fence the other way. Land and bolt. 1/2 way around the ring this time. Ok, progress. But really, for this exercise to work I need control w/in one stride. hmmmm. Ok well as much fun as that game was, it wasn't *really* getting us anywhere. Soooo... Try *walking* up to the jumps. Jog 2-3 strides out and hop over it. This still has the land and bolt effect, *but* since w/ no power coming in she has to actually rock back and use her hocks, she was landing in much better form. Making her ridable that much faster. Ok progress. But still landing w/ extreme speed. So pick a line that has a solid tree at the end of it. Use tree to aid in achieving the halt. hahahha very effective. I'll tell ya though, takes some kind of bravery to hold a frantic horse on a line that has a very solid object in its path. But in this case her self preservation kicked in and after a couple tries we had the idea and could practice the same technique sans-tree over the other jumps. Ok so walk, jump, land, halt, turn. Rinse and repeat. Now we've got something going that vaguely resembles my pretty picture -- and works in both directions. Woohoo. Ideally this exercise is performed at the canter, but you know... Baby steps :) At least it makes the baby-jumps worth jumping when attempting them at a walk *g* So when she's got the hang of the walk it's time to move into the trot. With the codicil that if the turn is not good, the approach to the next fence gets oh-so-smoothly turned into a circle and we school the flat work instead. Well there were a couple times I had to halt her, and once I had to use the trot circle, but pretty quickly she got the hang of it. N it was nice to see both ways were equally successful and she'd give me whichever lead I asked for. Finally got two in a row where she jumped super-quiet and super-round out of the trot, landed in a quiet, balanced canter, and navigated the turn. After that, we called it a day. Cause really, it was perfect and I had to get to work *g* No time to start the game all over at the canter. So while significant portions of this game were not pretty and were not fun, the end result was lovely and she came a very long way in a very short time. So this is progress :) Or so I'm telling myself anyways!

#FridayFlash 48: The Shadows of the Night

They say Shakespeare is a plagiarist because most of his stories were first told by somebody else. What they don't usually mention is that until very recently the art in story-telling was to tell a tale everybody knew in a new way. And let me tell you, it's *way* easier to just invent something new! hahaha This is my first attempt at retelling a known tale, and I hope I've given it a life of its own. Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading :) ------------- The Shadows of the Night They say it's always darkest just before the dawn, but I know that's not true. It's really darkest at that point when you become exhausted from counting sheep, when you realize sleep will elude you, no matter how hard you try. And in that moment, when night is at its darkest, is when your mind registers the shadows the eye cannot see. The horrors of the night – those that instinct would have us fear. Those that science has committed to the realm of myth. But they remain. For you see, myths are merely truths that time has all but forgotten. I know this because I am one. And I hope you’ll forgive me for it. My name is Anesidora, Nesi to my friends, and I was born in a time when the Gods wandered amongst the men, playing with them as though they were little more than toys. I was born of the earth out of revenge. The first of my kind. A woman, granted Aphrodite’s powers of beauty and seduction, Athena’s wisdom, and Apollo’s gift for music. And I have to admit, I loved my life. I wasn’t a myth, or even a legend. I was a girl, blessed by the gods, and in love with a boy. Fortunately for me, in the happy way of fairy stories, he loved me back. My world was a wonderful place to live. We had a wedding the equal of which has never been seen. Attended by Gods and mortals alike, the wine flowed freely, the crystal sparkled, and the people celebrated. It was a night never to be forgotten. And as was tradition at the time, Epim and I were granted gifts by the attendees. My favourite was a stunning vase – painted with vibrant colours on a smooth surface. You could almost, but not quite, see through it. As I went to pull the stopper out, I was warned – the vase must never be opened. You can’t imagine my disappointment. I was such a silly child. But all my life I’d had anything I wanted, yet now I couldn’t use the one gift I was most interested in. It sat in our front entrance – too stunning to be hidden from sight. I came to believe it had powers – when I was upset, merely laying a hand on it would calm me. If I was sad, it would reflect the light in a way that would insist on a smile. When it turned out my husband was even more a child than I, being near the vase gave me the patience to deal with him. And, years later, our children. For years that vase captivated me. And gradually, the warning I’d been given faded in my mind. Epim claimed to have forgotten – he always had some excuse or another, but I knew. I always knew. It just seemed, after so many years, how important could it be? And when, for our anniversary, he gave me that perfect, exotic, stunning flower that seemed to light up next to the vase, I knew it was meant to be. Clearly *this* was why I was not to use the vase; I had to wait for perfection. And maybe the vase did have magic. Maybe it would make the flower live forever. It would be foolish of me not to use it. Or so I convinced myself. A middle aged woman, yet still a silly child, a plaything of the gods, even after all those years. The second the stopper moved – I swear it wasn’t even all the way out, only just moved – there was a horrific shriek that chilled my blood and froze me into place. It was only a second, but it was long enough for the shadows to escape. When I regained control I quickly restopped the vase, but it was too late. All the horrors and terror of the world had been unleashed. Plagues and sorrows, crime and pestilence, war and famine, and innumerable others all escaped in the heartbeat before I could stop them. And my children’s world, and their children’s world, and the world of their children’s children, would never be the same. They would grow up in times of horrible violence and sadness. And I would watch it happen, knowing their pain was my fault. So in the darkness of the night when you see the shadows move, know I’ve spent a thousand lifetimes trying to recapture them, forever paying for a second’s mistake. And that I know of what I speak when I tell you that myths are merely truths that time has all but forgotten. And I hope you’ll forgive me.

Remembering to have fun....

My pony finally had the edge off her today. Not tired, but not high either. All it took was four outings in five days! hahaha gotta love TBs. Had to laugh at Si on Tuesday. I pulled the beast out and hooked it up to the trailer, which I then parked directly beside the mare's paddock as that points us in the right direction for the highway. Now the beast really is a Beast. It's incredibly loud and not a small vehicle by any means. So every mare in the field came over to see what was going on - they were all lined up along the fence watching my every move. Except Sienna. Who took one look, gave the equine equivalent of rolling her eyes, and went back to the hay which she no longer had to share cause all the other horses were watching me. hahaha Gotta love it. So I loaded her to take her to her dressage lesson and she walks on perfectly, absolutely no hesitation, all is well. Except that after all her recent excursions and multiple trailer loads on Sun, she now thinks everywhere she goes she should have a buddy. Stood perfectly quietly until I closed the door without a friend on the trailer. Oh well now that was just not acceptable. hahaha quite the temper tantrum. But she settled again fairly quickly. Had a decent lesson - pony was a little stiff, but not bad, and grazed her for a bit before heading home. She did hesitate briefly before loading, but it was only half a second or so, so all good. So then last night I took Nicole to school XC. This being Sienna's 4th outing in 5 days I wasn't sure how thrilled she would be, but both critters just walked on, no problem. It is awfully nice to have horses that load hassle free. The environment is one Si's been to before and where she's quiet, so I was able to tie her to the trailer (which I've just started doing in calm scenarios). Made life super easy to get tacked up and ready to go. N tried to use the giant mounting block, which theoretically would've made things easier but unfortunately it was rather precariously balanced on a rock so was a little like trying to mount from the middle of a teeter-totter. hahaha Amusing from my viewpoint but I think not-so-much from hers *g* Esp as when her horse is excited he doesn't stand long for her to mount. So we head out, her horse definitely in the lead, having no idea where he was going but determined to get there first. We took our time warming up -- went for a long walk and then an equally long trot. N warmed up over a random PE log while I took Si up and down the equally tiny bank. She's definitely got the hang of up (even for the big ones). There's still hesitation on the down but I'm happy to say there was no launching at all and by then end she was actually stepping down properly. Woohoo! Progress. We jumped some little courses -- N's horse was having a blast! And once she got the hang of putting your leg ON to stop (kinda like hitting "start" to shut down the computer) she did too :) She managed to get him over the scary painted fence on the first try! Woohoo! and introduced him to the world of up-banks. Sweet. By the end they were complete pros! As for Si, her confidence is slowly coming back. I admit I let her look at almost everything before jumping her over it, but it lead to a significant increase in our success rate. Still mostly jumping out of the trot, but at least that's getting better. Hillwork went really well and general behaviour was excellent, so that was good. And the best part - she was having fun! I haven't felt that from her since before she was off, so it was really nice to experience. And grazing them afterwards as the sun set on a warm summer's eve? Yeah, it doesn't get much better than that.

Welcome to the award winning blog...

Woohoo! G. P. Ching awarded me this – my first ever blog award! Hahaha I have to admit I was pretty excited. Particularly as I regularly read the other authors to whom she awarded it and am flattered to be held in that company :) Apparently I earned it for my A Sticky Note Life story since, as she says, "anyone who can tell a story in sticky notes must have an interesting history." hahaha I hope I can live up to that :) That being said, this award is a perfect example of a gold star with fine print... The award, once offered, must be earned. But the task amused me so I'm in :) The rules of the game are: Provide seven outrageous facts about you. Readers choose whether six are lies and one is true or six are true and one is a lie. Then you pass on the award to the next unsuspecting victim. Alright here goes... Is one of these true or six? Do you know which one(s)? I learned to walk before I learned to crawl. I've been doing things in less-than-traditional ways ever since :) When I was in NZ I went on a volcano hike. Met a guy on said hike. My hostel in that particular town was in a not-so-great location and he was all concerned. He walked me home and then went and moved his stuff to my hostel; I felt like I was living in a warped version of a 50s sitcom. We travelled together for two weeks, then went to the airport and got on planes to different lives. It was the most amazing, fun, powerful and too-short relationship of my life. I still think of him from time to time, and wonder if he ever thinks of me. The night my grandmother died, she called me to say goodbye. My unlisted phone rang and I answered it to be greeted by silence. Not a dial tone. Not a machine call. Not an “oops sorry, click.” It was the sound of a connected phone with nobody speaking. It gave me pause, but I hung up and dismissed it shortly after... Until the next day when my father told me she had passed, and I couldn’t help but realize the timing. Coincidence? Possibly. But I’ve now had that number more than 15 years, and that’s the *only* time that’s ever happened. I nearly didn't graduate from university because I got caught in a weird technicality due to having too many courses from other universities on my transcript. Seriously -- too many courses?!?! One would think the logical solution would be to just discount a few of them, but no... Instead I had to take summer courses to balance out the load. But I'm not the least bit bitter about that. I often finish people's sentences in my head before they actually finish speaking them (with remarkable accuracy). It's incredibly frustrating to wait for them to catch up. I have one friend who has the same ability. It turns out that when we're together we unconsciously speak in half sentences; I never realized that till somebody eavesdropping got frustrated enough to comment on it. Streetlights have a disturbing tendency to flicker out if I stand under them too long and I never wear a watch because when I do they rarely tell the correct time for long. Apparently this has something to do with the electromagnetic field of the body. In all those extra courses I took, I never found one that would teach me how to wear a watch successfully. Every time I buy a lottery ticket I genuinely believe I'm going to win and start planning my new life. One Christmas I got a scratch lottery ticket from Santa. I scratched it and it won me a free ticket. I traded it in and happily scratched the freebie. It too won me a free ticket. Rinse and repeat. Trading them in once or twice a week I played for a year and a half on free tickets. Never won anything else, but it was quite the chain. That Christmas gift was so much more than a throw-away scratch card; it was a year and a half of dreams. So... Is truth stranger than fiction? What do you think? Let the guessing begin!!! And as for passing on the award I’m granting it to: Dana Larose – because without him I may never have discovered Flash and because he’s a talented writer. and to Maria Protopapadaki-Smith (aka Mazz in Leeds) because she writes a wide variety of stories and they’re always incredibly well told.