Saturday, April 26, 2014

Random running thoughts

On a good run, my brain goes on autopilot. my mind's eye, I can see it, the photograph of myself and the big dark horse that has no name. The photo captures the image of us sailing over a fence on a cross-country course -- a fence of decent substance, too, not my usual 18" hop -- outfitted in our XC battle gear. We both have the eagle-eyed expression of individuals intent on their job as we look toward the next fence, focused, concentrating, getting the job done. Making the time. I wonder if I'll ever have a real photograph of that...

I've realized that aging means so few opportunities left for true bad-assery in any sort of real, athletic way. Or at least it seems that way at the moment. the Introductory level there's not a lot of exciting movements to ride.Walk, trot, 20m circle, halt. Across the diagonal at the trot and the walk. Not even a rein back or canter. Lots of good foundation for later levels, but what kind of freestyle ride can I choreograph that will be at least slightly more exciting than watching grass grow? should I think about the competitive running season this year again since it doesn't look like horse shows or trials will be part of my plans? Probably. I know I can get to the 10k distance, and definitely the 8k...probably not the half marathon. I wonder why that distance puts me off so much? I think it's the time I know it takes to run ten or twelve miles at a stretch. Hm. I think I need new sneakers.

...hopefully I don't look too chubby and middle-aged here on the side of the road. I wonder if I'm breathing really hard to the people I pass. I don't think so, but these headphones kind of mute that...

...crinoline and shoes, purse, jewelry. I hope I can find a crinoline for that prom dress before next weekend....

...I wonder if I should start buying some nice tack for my "someday" horse? A nice black bridle and maybe a halter? What if I find my horse and then have no tack to ride with? Or worse, have no budget for tack? I could get a horse bridle...that would be cool....a saddle, probably better wait til I have the horse.... I should find a decently-fitting black dressage show coat, blue is not my favorite, but it's all I've got for now......and Wren needs a new helmet for sure....and I would like a new one for myself....

...I have to have to have to lose some weight....have to. Twenty five pounds would be awesome, but ten would satisfy me for a little while...I still can't believe I'm not too heavy for this pony....

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A month of losses and new beginnings

Yesterday was my 44th birthday, and as I remind everyone, it's also the 44th anniversary of the very first Earth Day, back in 1970. It's just a cool fact that I love about my birthday date, and it usually means nice weather, spring greenery, and time to be spent outside enjoying it all. Worship in the Church of the Natural Environment. I definitely did some of that, it was a gorgeous day!

Our family, as a whole, and each of us individually, has suffered a few losses this month, but we've also found ourselves at the start of some new beginnings, too.

Of course, we lost Quinn, early this month. Travis lost his foster mother to cancer on Good Friday. Several friends have also experienced the loss of loved ones. Our relationship with the owner of the barn we had been riding and boarding Cinnamon at really began to deteriorate, and because we felt the best option for us was to move Cinnamon to a new barn, we have lost Turkey, even though he wasn't really ours in the first place.

We're in the middle of some nice, new beginnings, though, too. I have found a dressage instructor I like, and a barn where there are lots of adults and some kids, and everyone seems really friendly and welcoming. Wren seems to have found a place at a large hunter barn with TONS of kids and ponies.

It became evident weeks ago that Wren was not receiving the type of instruction that she needed in order to progress as a rider, and I was not able to really study the riding discipline I wanted to study. So a change was necessary. It has really paid off; Wren even wanted to, and tried to initiate, the canter on her lesson horse last night! Amazing transformation in just about a month! What a difference from the terrified, tearful child who didn't even want to trot! Now she's talking about jumping, and wanting to take some dressage lessons from my instructor, too!

I'm really enjoying my lessons with my new trainer, even though I have not yet cantered and I'm still working on the Introductory level work. I *feel* like I am getting my basics under control, but in photographs Travis took today, I was astonished to find myself looking kind of crummy...fat...round...lower legs not as close to the horse's side as they should be...body angle too far forward....ugh. I have so much to work on. It's depressing. Not at all what I had hoped I looked like. Good grief, I hope I don't stay a damned flappy, chunky, sack-of-potatoes beginner forever.

...and these are the best pictures. I'm not posting the really fat and ugly ones....

Cinnamon joined some like-sized friends at the barn where I am taking lessons. She is settled in, and after an altercation (not serious) with a small pony gelding who was looking for love in all the wrong places, she is happily munching hay and has a new friend, Holly, the miniature mare. She's a part of things there, and seems happy and content. I am thrilled she is in a smaller-sized pasture that is close to the "action" so people will see her and be able to keep an eye on her.

Wren hopes to go "trail riding" on her this summer at the new barn. I hope we can do that, too. I've decided to lease the pony mare I've been riding in lessons, even though she is not even 14 hands tall. She's a cutie, and her name is Destiny. Interestingly, a blazon from my registered coat of arms is one of her markings -- a horse head. It's right on her hindquarters. My arms are effectively a horse head on a white diamond.

See? It's facing the opposite direction, but there it is.

So, things are looking up, even though there is still some residual drama and entanglements to untangle. Hopefully that stuff will be done soon. I hope the cycle of loss and pain is done for a while. It's exhausting.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Finding my place

I love dressage.

I know most non-horse people think of it in terms of Stephen Colbert's funny sketches and interviews with Jan Ebeling about his Olympic mount, Rafalca, partially owned by Ann Romney....horses and riders "dancing" with and without music. That's part of it, but it's really so much more, and it's based in military training for field maneuvers.


What I love about dressage is the training. I love the end result, of course, the beauty and harmony of horse and rider, but it's much like learning dance in the process of training. Very physical and cerebral, requiring focus and patience and daily work. I can get lost in my own head and attend to the details of the ride, even at the low level I am at, and think about all the moving parts -- mine and the horse's -- and where to put them with each stride. I remember being that focused when I was training as a dancer, too. The muscular and biomechanical control I gained allowed me to place my limbs wherever I wanted, to balance, and move through space efficiently and seemingly effortlessly.

To do that with a horse is an incredible experience. I've felt the harmony of horse and rider before, briefly in separate rides, usually only for a few minutes at a time. I've been searching for that feeling since I started back to riding two years ago. Today, I found it again, briefly, only for a few moments at a time, but it was there, and it was wonderful.

I've been riding with a dressage trainer and judge for the last few weeks, and it has been a great experience. Fun, productive, challenging, and very positive so far. My lessons have been basic, but straightforward, progressing in small increments to more and more challenging geometry, learning to resolve issues and refine my basic position, and regain my confidence and control. I've found I am not the things I was told I was, and I DO correctly know the details I was taught years before. That, in and of itself, has been a relief.

I'm enjoying riding again. I'm practicing the skills I know, and learning the new ones I need to know. Right now, it's all USDF Introductory Level, walk-trot, haven't even cantered yet, but that's fine. I want the solid foundation of a good position, correct riding, and firm knowledge of the very basics before I get into other stuff. Yes, this means I have to spend time with the World's Most Boring Dressage Test, but it doesn't feel as boring anymore since I actually am focusing on the components of riding that make up the test instead of just riding the test over and over.

And I'm riding a pony. A real pony, a 13.3h Welsh/TB cross mare who has schooled up to a bit of Second Level. It's been interesting; I've never ridden such a short equine before, ever. But her owner and my instructor both say I am doing a great job with her, so that makes me feel good. I still can't get over her being so short, though. For my birthday next week, my instructor says I can ride one of the big draft crosses or other big guys she has, if I want to. That should be interesting after a few weeks of pony-riding!

At any rate, I had a great lesson today, and I finally feel like I am making progress and finding my place. Now if only I could find my *horse*.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Running my hands over her furry body, I repeated the only thing I could think of to tell her....I'm so sorry, I'm sorry, I love you, I'm so sorry....I'm so sorry....I love hand after the other, down the length of her compact form, forehead to tail, forehead to tail, sobbing, tears falling on her black and tan coat.

I tried to gather her in my arms, but she was limp and I was afraid to hurt her, or cause her to expend energy she did not have. The anemia that began so suddenly a night and a day ago robbed her of even the ability to thump her considerable tail against the table as it consumed her red blood cells faster than they could be replaced. There was no fixing this, no transfusion fast enough, no drug, no treatment that she'd was likely the underlying disease was a cancer somewhere.

....I'm so sorry....I'm so sorry....I love you....I love you.....I'm sorry Kira is not here....I wish you could stay...I love you....thank you....we will miss you.....I'm so sorry....

It was her sixteenth birthday when we finally let her go.

Rest well, my dear companion, Quinn. You were so loved, and you will be forever missed.