Here there be dragons...

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


Today's the day!  The day BOFF2 is released!  WOOHOO!!!   BOFF? you ask...   That’d be Best of Friday Flash :)  I’m pretty stoked about it.  And very excited that one of my stories has been included!  Woohoo!  It’s especially exciting for me since I haven’t had time to write much fiction recently, so it brings back happy memories.

A friend of mine first invited me to try submitting a story to Friday Flash a couple years ago.  It was the first story I'd written that I let anybody other than my mother read, and was a bit trepidatiously that I posted the link.  But the response from the (then very small) community was incredibly supportive and I quickly came to enjoy contributing and reading the stories others shared.  And while the number of people involved grew rapidly, the small-town, welcoming environment stuck.

After a while, I'm not sure who suggested it first, but at some point Jon (our fearless leader!) decided it'd be a good idea for a Best Of compilation.  Anybody interested was encouraged to submit up to three stories for consideration and after a few rounds, the stories were selected. I was thrilled to be included, although I suspected our community was small enough that the powers that be were trying hard to include anybody who wished to be included :)

However, by the time a second book was being considered, the FF community had grown significantly and a large number of "real" writers were now participating.  A little more intimidating for those like me who write occasionally when we have time but with no plans or expectations to ever make a living from it.  And yet, I discovered very quickly that those professional writers were just as supportive of any effort as everybody else.  And in many cases had good advice to give and always great stories to read.  

And along with the growing community came a company interested in publishing BOFF2.  Wow.  So this time I was a little more nervous about submitting my story -- only one submission was allowed (how do I know which one to submit?) and I suspected (although I certainly don't know for sure) that the competition would be a little more fierce. 

Time crawled slowly, as it will when you're waiting for anything, but eventually I got the news that my story had been accepted for inclusion into BOFF2!  Woohoo!  And today is the day the wait comes to its conclusion.  Because BOFF2 is being released :)   

BOFF2 can be purchased direct from the publisher at eMergent Publishing or from Amazon at Best of Friday Flash: Volume 2.  And for those who missed it, US Amazon still has Best Of Friday Flash - Volume One: A Collection Of Short Fiction.

Friday Flash attracts authors from the far reaches of the world.  To the best of my knowledge there are four other Canadian authors included in this anthology – check out their posts below!

Alan W. Davidson

Cathy Olliffe-Webster

T.S. Bazelli

Jen Brubacher (who lives in England but is definitely Canadian - in fact, Jen is a little jet-lagged and may not be able to post today but she's hoping)

Happy Birthday Mum!!!

It's my amazing mother's birthday today!   Woohoo!!!

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to Mu-um
Happy birthday to you!

And what's Mum doing on her birthday?   Riding :)   hahaha and *that* is a statement I never thought I'd make.  And I'd just like to announce she entirely accomplished her goal of cantering before her birthday.  Woohoo!  Congrats :)

So I contemplated writing a slightly exaggerated but highly entertaining bio of some sort, but it really - that's hard to do since I only really know what's happened since my life story became my own and not just a continuation of hers.  The before is tricky when  you can't ask the primary participant questions without giving away the plans *g*

So instead I thought we'd review some of the things that've changed since the world has been blessed with her presence -- all entirely her doing of course.  And I was starting to have some fun with that, but really -- that's a book all in itself!  When the blog was getting WAY too long I aborted that idea entirely.   Then I thought maybe a birthday news post.  But it turns out most of the news sites that are archived online didn't post on whatever day of the week Oct 29 was that year *sigh*   Horrible fail.   I did find one that amused me though - want to know what happened the day Bev was born?  Check out  There's a website for everything :)

On a side note (because there were a LOT of side notes in this post :)  Entirely too ancient for the purposes of this post, but kept me entertained (ummm distracted) for entirely too long is Historic American Newspapers.  Very kewl site.  Discover history the way it was told at the time.  I have a book that's 100 years of NY Times -- super interesting for the same reason.   And as far as birthday gifts go -- is an interesting idea.  Sadly not one I thought Mum'd really like (more of a Dad type gift) but I still thought it was kinda kewl.   And closer to home: -- who knew Acton's had a paper since 1875???   hahaha

Anyways - next I decided, why invent the wheel?  Surely somebody's already done this for me :)   And sure enough...  hahaha the framing couch people aren't really worth watching, but the video being presented is somewhat amusing.

And on that note - happy birthday Mum!  And here's to the next 60 years!

Flash back

I had high hopes of writing a Friday Flash tonight -- the first in over a year!  *gasp* how sad.  But worse, it turns out the creative portion of my mind isn't functional tonight.  *sigh*   I did, however, have a ton of fun reading through old flashes I wrote ages ago that are little more than a flicker of a memory.  Which, in turn, killed whatever time I had left to write something new.  hahaha ah well.  Maybe next week >;-P

If anybody new to reading this wants to kill some time -- these ones brought back fun memories:

Last day on the job -
A Sticky Note Life  - a short story in sticky notes<
The Shadows of the Night (mythology) -
A Summer's Day (fantasy) -<
The Photo Album (magic realism) -
Just another day (crime fiction) -
And if you liked that one, it has a sequel: 

hahaha if you take the time to read any of em - let me know what you think!  Comments always welcome and appreciated :)

Had a lot of fun teaching yesterday and today -- now that my head is clear enough to think!  Ugh - I've been sick more this season than the last few years combined.  No fun at all!   My own lesson this am was just kinda silly.  Did nothing particularly productive, but had a lot of fun doing it *g*   By far the best lesson-related post of the week was Brena's: "Somehow the best lessons are the ones where you bounce around trying to hold someone else's whip, get your tack taken away, and end up sitting backwards on your pony..." hahaha so there is actually a reasonable explanation for all of this -- but that's no fun at all.   So I'm just going to say you had to be there. Or maybe you're a horse person who already *has* been there at some point and is now grinning away remembering...

Does playing the sport of kings make me a queen?

Polo... The sport of kings! Alas but I'm neither king nor queen and as such have never had the opportunity to play this fantastic sport. But then today, thanks to a wicked combination of Facebook and Groupon, I finally got that chance!

This story begins last summer -- Laura and I were discussing how much fun it'd be to try polo.   Sadly when I went home and researched, I decided it was prohibitively expensive and that dream was shelved.

Well a few months later a facebook acquaintance posted something asking if anybody was interested in a polo lesson -- I was one of several who responded positively.  And then nothing really came of it.  But a couple months after that, that same friend posted a link to GroupOn and tagged everybody who had expressed an interest in polo from her original post.  The link offered a variety of options -- but the one I liked was a semi-private polo lesson for $99.   Sweet.  Called Laura who was all for it and ordered the tickets.   Lesson had to be used by November.

But then show season hit.  And sailing.  And puppy class.  And general all-round insanity.  And we thought we had a good date but then Laura came off a young horse and was going to be off for six weeks *sigh*  So it got put on hold again.  But eventually we had a date that'd work for both of us and two sound riders.  Sweet.

And then, this morning, Laura's daughter was sick.  *sigh*  So being the good mom she is, she was out.  Too late at this point to reschedule as they polo guys require 48h for a make-up.  Which meant I was going regardless, but this kind of thing would be way more fun with a friend, so I put the word out.   I called my working students first but they were all working real jobs.  Imagine that >;-P    So then I called some of my riding friends -- most of them were busy too, but one was able to *very* quickly rearrange life to come play.  Woohoo!

So now polo...   Have you ever played golf?   How about ridden a dirt bike?  Played hockey?  How about all three at the same time?  Cause, well, that's pretty much polo.   hahaha - and have I mentioned I've never been successful at any of the above three sports?  Oh dear.

We started our polo lesson on the ground.  Definitely a wise move.  First step -- how to hold the mallet.  Stick your thumb through a loop, twist it around a few times, hook your hand between the loop and the mallet, and hang on.  Good to go.  Actually did make for a fairly secure hold.  From there we were introduced to each of the four swings.  Off-side fore, off-side back, near-side back, and near-side fore.  Ummm for the non-horse-people out there, off-side is right and near-side is left -- which in this circumstance seemed very backwards to me since the mallet is in the right hand and so the near-side is farthest away *g*  hahaha  Keep in mind, the mallet doesn't change hands -- so hitting the ball when it's on the near-side of the horse is a bit of a challenge.

So first one is hitting the ball forward when it's on the off-side (aka the right -- where the mallet is).  This one works pretty much as you'd expect -- the only challenge is that in the follow through you have to really make sure the mallet goes forward and doesn't arc around (ie golf).  Because if it arcs around, you'll hit your horse.  Boo on that.  Trickier was the second swing -- hitting the ball backwards when it's on the off-side.  Same general concept but with the theory that you've gone past the ball and are sending it the opposite direction.  I liked that one :)  Then the same two concepts on the near-side.  The forward one on the near side is all technique -- twisted at that angle, strength does very little good.  Jen got a good giggle at the fact that as soon as Janet (our awesome clinician) mentioned that one particular one was hard and not to expect to get it on the first day and isn't that the one I do best *g*.   Classic.  The easy ones otoh...  hahaha oh dear.

So we played that game for a while till we were deemed sufficiently well trained to get on a horse.

A wooden one.  hahaha seriously.  I so want one of these for the school.  When we were chatting earlier, Janet had mentioned she'd actually had people fall off said wooden horse -- this seemed really funny until I was leaning WAAAAAYYYYY off the side to hit a ball and suddenly realized *exactly* how one could end on the ground.  But I did manage to follow rule 1 on the wooden horse.

So we practiced swinging on the wooden horse a few times (poor Janet had to keep sending them back to us -- she could've used Sasha :) -- key details: the ground is a LOT farther away.  And don't hit the horse!

Got it.

Then way too early, time to get on a horse.  You've heard that before right?  Yeah but this time, it was a real live polo pony.   One just off the competitive season about to be turned out to gain pony fat.  One whose name I could hardly pronounce much less spell so...

First step - tack.  I was surprised the ponies weren't nearly as bubble-wrapped as I would've thought.  Polos (aptly named for once!) were the only leg protection (although in games they wear tendon boots and bell boots).  The bridle was a gag with double reins.  Martingale was the most intense I've ever seen -- leather was as thick as a usual stirrup leather.  But the fit was the same as I'd expect and all the tack was in good condition.  The breastplate had similarly intense straps, but again all well fitting and good to go.

The stirrup irons were also very thick -- at least double the traditional size.   My guess is to give you more security when you're leaning off the side!  No kneerolls on the saddle and I found the saddle balance tipped me very backward -- but when I was leaning off the side trying to hit the ball, I felt very secure, so my thought is they're balanced that way on purpose.  As with any riding sport -- trying to use the wrong saddle won't go well.  Jumping in dressage tack or dressaging in a jockey saddle are not impossible, but not easy either.   So while I felt off-balance at first in this one, it definitely worked for what we were doing :)

Stirrup length was between show-jump length and xc length.   You want your knee bent enough that you can move around, but enough leg to wrap around the horse and hang on!

And then the reins.  All four of them.   And unlike in a double bridle -- neither set is skinny.  Booo.  Even more unusual for me -- all four reins in one hand.  Fun :)  So Janet told us how to separate the reins and hold them all in one hand and reminded us that these horses neck rein and should be on essentially no contact.  Sweet.

Then the other difference -- steering is almost all rein aids.   My legs did very little to turn the horse and I will be forever grateful they don't respond to shifts in balance!   Can you imagine taking a top level dressage horse, one who'll swap leads at the slightest weight shift, and suddenly leaning so far off the side that you're parallel to the ground?  hahaha oh dear.  Can only imagine the reaction.   These ponies just held their line.  Very patient and very well trained.

Jen and I rode around for a bit hitting balls.  A couple challenges on a real horse -- the wooden one always faced forwards.  The live ones turn their heads!  Imagine that!  But how much does it suck when the horse turns to look at the mallet as you're swinging it!   Stopped just short of walloping my horse in the jowl.  Poor sainted pony :(   I would've been so upset.   But fortunately my swing really didn't have any strength behind it, so easy to stop it.  But that definitely made me even more hesitant as we were going.

Eventually though we were getting the hang of it and starting to read better how and where our horses would move and just generally getting more comfortable.   The ponies knew the game and would follow the ball after hitting it.  I thought that was pretty kewl.  Now you have to realize, both Jen and I are pretty type-A personalities.   I know, you're so surprised!  hahaha so of course as soon as we mastered (and by "mastered" I mean "were barely competent at") the basic skills we had to turn it into a game.   But we both acknowledged that chasing the *same* ball swinging mallets directly beside each other would probably not be a good idea for either us OR our sainted ponies, so we simply decided to race from one end of the arena to the other.  hahaha Jen won the first round and I won the second.  We were debating whether we should have a tie breaker when we ran out of time.   Probably for the best!

So yeah it was So. Much. Fun.  I haven't laughed that hard in ages.  I'm quite certain I'll be sore tomorrow, but totally worth it :)   I love any time I get to try something completely new (see the sailing posts :) but getting to do something completely new on horseback is a rarity for me and it was so very much fun.   And Janet was awesome; we were there quite a bit longer than we had actually paid for *g*   So the question for my GRS students is -- any interest in a clinic?   It's an hour - 1.5h away.  But so very entertaining!

Oh and as for the subject line -- the debate reigns re whether "the sport of kings" is polo or horse racing, but polo is the sport that actually counts multiple kings among its participants :)   So for the sake of my subject line, we're going with polo.

So what did you do today?

Wow today was...  An entertaining scheduling nightmare really...  hahaha

Ok so original plan:
- 10am off-site lesson
- 12:15 working student lesson
- 1 private
- 1:45 beginner private
- 2:45 assessment

All good right?

Next somebody called for a tour, interested in boarding.   Alright, get them to come right before w/s lesson at noon.

Then I had somebody coming who wants to be a w/s.  hmmm ok, well I can make it early from the off-site lesson, so she can ride at 11:30.  Np.

Then another assessment signed up, so without looking at my calendar I considered my usual Sunday schedule and put them at 3.  And an intermediate student wanted a private so I put her in at 4.

Ok does anybody else notice a 2:45 assessment and a 3:00 assessment?   Tricky.  Very tricky.   But I actually decided that with a little help from my awesome working student Brena, I could pull it off.   Just have her give a tour and fill out paperwork and at 3:15 they can ride the same horse as the first rider.  No worries.

Then through a whole variety of reasons, my off-site lesson changed from an hour to an hour and a half.  Very tricky as that now means I have to leave there at 11:30 and be at my barn at 11:30 -- with no time inbetween.  But I really like those people so...

Then my 1 and 1:45 (who come together) had to cancel due to illness, so I promptly rescheduled the 4 for 1 and the 3 for 2.  Woohoo!   And since I have such awesome students, they were all good with this.

Ok so now the only issue is getting from off-site to home with enough time to teach the new w/s AND give a tour at noon.  So I was *really* ok with it when Rebecca told me tentative w/s didn't show up.  hahaha classic eh?  No email or phone but, it saves me half an hour.   Which promptly put me back on schedule.

Sweet.  Then I get to the barn and check my messages and unfortunately potential boarder isn't well, so that'll be rescheduled as well.  And suddenly I'm at the barn *early* with time to relax between lessons.  Wow.

W/s lesson was fun as always and the 4 private which got bumped up to 1 went really well too.  The 2 lesson appeared just as I was finishing with 4 -- almost perfect timing.  When I finished with them no sign of the 2:45.   Open arena so I let Brena get in some extra riding (working student perk :) and found a message that they're half-hour late.  No problem.

They got there just as Brena finished.  Horse was warmed up and good to go for the new student.  And all was well with the world.

But from an easy day to an almost impossible day and back to a fairly simple day again, all within a few hours.  hahaha.  Just one of those days I guess :)

And my goal of being in bed by 10pm to catch up on some sleep?   Yeah - you can stop laughing now.  Sheesh.

Thanksgiving adventures :)

So Thanksgiving this year was so much fun :)

First off -- HUGE thanks to Kennedy, Katlyn, Rebecca, Brena and Amy who covered for me so I could disappear for a couple days!   Greatly appreciated :)

My thought was to feed and turnout the horses, get home and run some errands and leave around noonish.   Right.   Let's revisit that shall we?   By the time I was done at the barn (since it's never *just* feed and turnout -- esp when I'm going away for almost 3 days!).  So I got home around 11:30.  hmmmm oops.  Then both the second and third errand took significantly longer than anticipated.  They got done, just not quickly *sigh*.  And about that point as it was getting close to 3:30 I deemed the rest of the list could be ignored and hopped in the car.

Got there just in time for thanksgiving dinner!  Woohoo!  Soooo good :)

So the next day was pretty much just relaxing.  Soooo nice.  Spent most of the day on the couch with a book -- broken up with the occasional frisbee game with Sasha and riding a dirt bike for the first time -- but mostly relaxing.

What was that?  Oh the frisbee -- yeah, Sasha's favourite game.  She was so well behaved at the cottage.  Had a ton of fun playing with the boys :)  And remember her manners well enough that with a dozen people in a tiny cottage she wasn't a problem.  I was pretty happy with her.

Hmmmm?  Oh - the dirt bike.  Ummm yeah -- it doesn't interpret my aids quite as well as my horse does *g*  hahaha actually it was So. Much. Fun!  I had such a HUGE little-kid grin on my face :)   So it turns out, that when you crash a bike it's very much like when you crash your horse -- time slows down.  What's going through my head as I'm heading straight towards a tree on my first *ever* attempt on a bike is "if I fall with my legs out to the side like this, I'll break a leg".   Nothing useful like maybe - hit the breaks :)  *sigh*   Oh no, just how to fix it so that when I fall I won't get tooooo hurt.  Sheesh.   Fortunately while I couldn't for the life of me find the breaks, I *did* know where the clutch was.  hahaha AND had enough presence of mind to engage it so that said bike was instantly in neutral.  Didn't slow down very fast, but at least it stopped the accelleration *g*  Oh dear.   I *did* in-fact manage to get stopped a good 6" from the tree >;-P  hahaha but I think that was sheer beginner's luck.

The second try (yes there was a second try - you're not new here) - was significantly better.  hahaha and so very much fun.  Got going and didn't realize till after that my cousin was following along behind just in case I needed rescue :)   And just as I was debating a switch to second gear, I realized I was running out of driveway!  Booo.  So I stopped instead :(   So sad.  And it *almost* worked -- I aimed for neutral and promptly stalled it instead.  *sigh*  Ah well - I stopped where I intended to stop and under control, it just wasn't as graceful as I would've liked.  hahaha Daniel got the bike turned around and started again for me and I drove it back :)   This time I'd been warned about neutral being a challenge and just went for off when I got there.  But omg so much fun.  Grinning just remembering it now.

So yeah - something entertaining always happens at Thanksgiving :)   The rest of the weekend was a pretty traditional cottage weekend and as always, I really enjoyed it.  Hope yours was as much fun!

Superstars finish off the season :)

Show season ended on a high!  The last two weekends Chelsea took Lissy out, first to Glen Oro and then to the PE champs at Equus.

Glen Oro was a step up for Chelsea -- a bigger course and more competition.  And horrible weather.  She and Lissy got *hailed* on in dressage warm-up *sigh*   The footing was super deep and wet.  Their dressage was decent, but Lis was really sticky in the canter.

Times were tight, so after dressage awesome supergroom Kirby took Lissy back to the trailer to change tack and let her have a drink and a break while Chelsea and I went to walk XC.  The course looked really good -- long compared to what Chelsea's experienced before, but small and nothing terrifying.  Sweet.

Show jumping otoh...  We walked that course next and while she seemed calm, it very much looked like Chelsea's eyes might jump out of her head.  Oh dear.  Made sure she knew where to go and what to do when she got there and tried to make it sound easy -- but I'm not sure she believed me *g*   Then her supergroom arrived with her pony (so spoiled :) and Chelsea got on and started to warm-up.

All good.  Well till the first attempt at the vertical.  When Lis decided she wanted a little more time to evaluate the jump and Ches decided to take a second look.  She did a beautifully executed, if slightly unexpected, dismount -- landing properly prepared to lead standing on her feet holding the reins, looking at the jump.  Oops.  Ah well - give rider a lift back onto the pony and send them off for another try.  Sure enough the second time was much better and by the time her warmup was done both she and Lis were jumping really well.

And into the ring they went.  Clearly being slightly intimidated by the course does good things for Chelsea's riding as she rode around it like an absolute pro!  I was so proud of her :)  They were clear and it was a beautiful round.  Woohoo!
There was time to give Lis a drink and a slight break and then time to go out on xc.  And by the first fence both pony and rider were grinning wildly.   Chelsea went for a slight detour in the fourth field but she figured out pretty quickly and got pointed back in the right direction.  The rest of the course went brilliantly and when they crossed the finish line the grin on her face made it clear why she'd put up with the hail storm :)  Awesome day and even with the detour cross was clear and on time.

And that was an excellent set-up for championships!  The next weekend we were out at Equus for the PE championships.  Emily and Margaret came along to help :)  Chelsea's dressage warmup was incredible.  Arguably her best dressage ever.  Wow.  Sadly though, they used up all that dressage superstardom in the warm-up and when they went in the ring it was arguably not their best test ever.  But they did stay in the ring and generally go where they were supposed to go, so still in the game.

We walked xc and it looked like a lot of fun -- most of the course she had jumped earlier in the year.  Until we got to the second-last fence.  A trakehner.  In PE.  Hmmmm ok so Chelsea's never jumped a ditch of any sort.  Lissy's done many of them, but they're not her favourite thing in the world yet.  But still, a trakehner has a better chance of survival than an open ditch would simply because on the approach Lissy wouldn't know there's anything scary about that log till the last stride *g*   So there was a very detailed discussion about how this fence was to be ridden, then a quick discussion of the last fence and off to walk stadium.  

Stadium looked good -- it had it's challenges (including the always scary viaduct) but was actually far more inviting than the last time she rode it, so good to go :)  So Chelsea went back to get her pony and we started the warmup.  Remember how dressage warm-up was brilliant?  And then in the show ring not so much?  Well when I saw the start of Chelsea's w/u I was really hoping we'd be seeing the reverse!  Oh dear.  But we had enough time and by the time it was time for her to go in the ring, she'd remembered how to ride :)   Takes a cool head to come back from an iffy ride in a competition scenario and put it all together again for the next round, but Chelsea pulled it off.  By the time she went into the ring she was back on.  And they were superstars.  Even the horse-eating, pumpkin-housing viaduct was jumped over on the first try.  Clear and on time.  Woohoo!

And then off to xc :)  Which was amazing.   I got to see *most* of the course and it all went beautifully.  Chelsea rode the trakhener exactly as discussed -- and Lissy jumped it on the first try!  Her front feet jumped it like the tiny log fence it was, and her back feet *way* up in the air as she realized mid-air what was underneath her!  Very impressive :)
Hind feed aren't going anywhere *near* the monsters!

Took care of Lissy and then went to check out results.  THIRD place!  Woohoo!!!!  Awesome finish to her first season :)   Way to go Chelsea!

Dressage Clinic with Mary Ambrose - Ride Times

Saturday October 13

A semi-private lesson is $70 and will last an hour.   A private lesson is $85 and will last 45 minutes.   Cheques to Graduate Riding School Inc.

Riders should be warmed up at the start of their lesson - plan to get on 10-15 mins before your ride time.  Horses should be well turned out and tack cleaned.

Tentative ride times below.  Let Lauren know asap if you have any concerns about your time.

9    Paula - Charlie
      Kennedy - Nick

10  Brena - Bella
      Rebecca - Dixie

11  Rowan - Jack

11:45  Lauren - Athena

12:30  Lunch

1: 15  Chelsea - Lissy

2   Margaret - Louis
     Emily - Charlie

3   Mieke - Dixie
     Katlyn - Nick

4   Amy - Jack