Here there be dragons...

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

#fridayflash 54: The Photo Album

(Taken from I'm telling you stories . . . )

Was feeling a little nostalgic today, so this story has more reality in it than many of mine. But then it also has a reasonable amount of the extraordinary to balance it out. Hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think :)

---
The Photo Album

She opened her late grandmother's photo album reverently; she'd found it in the house after the funeral, but at the time had been too devastated to look. "To my children," the inscription read. The album, painstakingly and lovingly crafted, carried a lifetime and a half of memories. Elizabeth flipped to the end first -- two family shots, professionally taken just last year. She smiled at the memory of the chaos having all twenty of them in the photographer's tiny studio.

She flipped slowly back through the pages, seeing herself at graduation, before and after the ceremony -- how proud she'd been that day. The world was hers for the taking -- even if she had no idea what she wanted to do with it. She grinned at the memory of her idealistic self. There were pictures of herself and all her cousins as teenagers, then as children, then infants. She found a page from the day she came home from the hospital with her happy but exhausted mother. The story at this point was not hers, but rather the continuation of her mother's. Sure enough, the page before showcased her parents' wedding.

They looked so happy. And her mum so beautiful. She rubbed at a smudge on the page, disproportionately upset to find a flaw in her grandmother's album. But when she rubbed it, it wouldn't come off. She rubbed at it again, a last futile effort.

And suddenly found herself outside the church from the photo, her mother and father, much younger versions of themselves, standing on the steps preparing to leave for their honeymoon. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head, trying to clear the vision in front of her. It didn't work. Her parents still stood, complete in 1970s wedding regalia, enjoying their moment while friends and family -- some of whom she recognized -- celebrated around them. Nobody seemed to notice her. She could feel panic rising. She reached out to get the attention of the person next to her... But her arm passed right through him causing no more reaction than a brief shiver. She was a ghost. Could she be a ghost in a time she'd never lived in? Puzzling over that little dilemma briefly averted the panic, but all too quickly it returned. She couldn't stay in 1975 -- they didn't even have cell phones yet!

As her eyes darted around frantically, she suddenly realized one person could see her. She met the eyes of her grandmother across the property. Gram smiled a knowing smile and winked briefly before returning her attention to her daughter -- the crazy gram she'd always loved, who was always up for an intelligent prank. Somehow, in some way, she'd managed one last stunt.

Elizabeth worked her way towards her grandmother, who every once in a while would look directly at her, encouraging. It was hard to navigate the crowd; since nobody else could see her, they weren't about to get out of her way. And she just couldn't bring herself to go through somebody. Her world had already gone so far beyond her grasp of reality, she couldn't let that final piece go...

She reached her grandmother and her heart lept to her throat when she picked up a hand and ran it along Elizabeth's face, tucking a piece of hair back just as she always had the whole time she'd been growing up. "Gram, what...?"

"Don't worry Lizzibet, you'll be home soon." The name she'd never thought to hear again, spoken by the woman she knew she'd never again see.

"What was that?" Her grandfather turned toward his wife, puzzled.

"Nothing Dear," she told him, "just thinking out loud." He looked worried for an instant, but it passed as his attention was drawn to his daughter as her new husband opened the door to drive her away. Elizabeth was stunned to see a tear in his eye. Her very formal, very strict, grandfather crying at his daughter's wedding? Nobody would ever have believed it. And indeed, he blinked the tear back before it could shed. But Elizabeth knew what she'd seen.

Elizabeth's 1970s father got in the driver's side and her mother leaned out the passenger side to wave -- a scene Elizabeth had seen before. And a heartbeat later she was sitting back in her livingroom, the photo album open in her lap, looking at the image of her parents driving away from their wedding, with her mother leaning out the passenger side waving.

Elizabeth jumped up, shoving the album away from her. Unable to sit still, she went to the fridge on the premise of getting some water. It couldn't be. Her mind spun with the possibilities -- holograms made from videos? Just because she hadn't heard of the technology didn't mean it didn't exist. But in her heart she knew what she had experienced. And she knew that crazy Gram hadn't had any top of the line super-technology to play with. She returned to the album and opened it again, paying closer attention this time. And she discovered that on most of the pages, if you looked hard enough, there was a mark of some sort next to the first photo on every page.

She held her breath briefly as she touched another of the marks. Her grandmother sitting on the beach, holding Elizabeth's toddler mother in her lap. Sure enough, she felt the burst of warmth and found herself in another time and another world.

"Hello Lizzibet," her very young, sepia-toned grandmother said.

"Gram what??? How???" Full sentences were beyond her, but fortunately unnecessary.

"You, my daughters, and any women to come of our blood will always be able to share in my story. I hope one day you'll choose to share yours as well. Know that I'll always love you."

"Anne stop nattering at that child and look over here!" the photographer, Elizabeth's great-grandfather, commanded. With a smile that was clearly meant solely for Elizabeth, Anne did as she was told. And Elizabeth once again found herself at home looking at the pair of photos of young-mom Anne with her first-born.

Puns for the edumacated amongst us

So generally I'd be quite happy if puns would consider vanishing from the face of the planet... But Ian sent me these and they made me groan and roll my eyes, so I figured I'd inflict the same punishment on others. Enjoy!

1. The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .

3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

9. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

11. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

12. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: 'You stay here; I'll go on a head.'

13. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

14. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'

15. The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium
at large.

16. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

17. A backward poet writes inverse.

18. In a democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.

19. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

20. If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you would be in Seine.

21. A vulture boards an airplane carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.'

22. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says 'Dam!'

23. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

24. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, 'I've lost my electron.' The other says 'Are you sure?' The first replies, 'Yes, I'm positive.'

25. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

26. There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Pat Burgess Clinic - Day 2

So I have some great videos that I wanted to include in this one, but I ran into technical difficulties... So we have the still version instead. Enjoy!

So to recap...

hahaha nah you're not new here -- if you want the recap, scroll down one post :)

Day 2:

So I got up bright and early Sunday morning. Ok that's not entirely true, neither I nor the weather was particularly bright. But it was early. And headed off to the barn. I still wasn't sure who I'd be riding -- the night before I was definitely wishing I'd taken Arthur up on his offer. Argh - my own fault for not wanting to impose. Clearly I had a feeling Sienna wasn't going to be good to go, because I fed Moe before taking Si out of the stall to check. So I lunged her and she was at about 90%. Taking roughly one nqr stride per circle or circle and a half. But that stride was still there. And jumping for 2h would not be a good idea :( So instead I got Moe ready to go and put him on the trailer. Also being a superstar he just walks right on (esp good as it was pouring rain at the time!) but then he got very upset when I didn't put a friend on with him, so I wasn't sure how it'd go. Fortunately he settled as soon as we started going. By the time we got there when I went to check on him, he was busy muching away on his hay and gave me a look like "yeah? What do you want?" hahaha Took him off the trailer and he grew an extra hand or two -- but then he noticed . . . GRASS!!!! And that was about the end of Moe's excitement. Put him in the stall Sienna had had the day before and went to offer assistance hauling poles in out of the rain as the clinic was relocated indoors. "We're just about done." Perfect timing once again *g* But I did at least help move stuff around a bit so the riders in the first group could go get their horses ready. At some point in the organizing I mentioned to Arthur that I wished I'd taken him up on his offer, which he told me I was welcome to do and Suzanne convinced me it'd be ok to accept. So I did :) And from that point on was kinda like a little kid at their first lesson *g* hahaha I'm quite certain I provided the entertainment but omg I had so much fun doing so!

Again volunteered for ring-crew duty and the clinic followed much the same format as yesterday. Starting with gymnastics and leading to cantering single fences, with the focus being on keeping a "medium length" canter (not to be confused with a medium canter in dressage!) -- medium length so that should you need to lengthen or shorten you have the option of going either way. It was really great watching the young-horse group and seeing how much their (the horses') confidence had improved from the day before.

So when it was our turn I brought Arthur's wonderful horse out to the ring (who was all tacked up for me and everything! I was so incredibly spoiled :), and while I've never seen him before, Pat knows him so I figure we're good to go. He's compact -- the sports-car model :) Very much like Zel that way with stop/go/turn on a dime abilities. And far more in-tune to both balance and leg then many I ride *g* Our first couple transitions were ummmm enthusiastic :) N of course I'm trying to be all soft and quiet and not do anything wrong on Arthur's baby... Which was less than effective. After about 2 minutes of this (everybody else was still getting on and organized) Suzanne comes over and rolls her eyes at me "Just ride him. Like you would any other horse. Frame him up and go." Most polite smack across the side of the head ever. hahaha and exactly what I needed. Oh yeah, I *do* know how to ride and I'm not likely to break him. Seconds later horse is on the bit and instead of the sewing machine trot we'd had a few seconds ago we're floating around. Soooooo nice. Suzanne just looked at me and grinned. She knows. Had a few more examples of extra-response -- making a tight turn, turned even tighter than expected. Ask for forward and get HUGE. Ask for collect and get halt. Oops :) But I was having sooooo much fun playing around to find said buttons. And the saddle! So this thing crazy-glued my leg into position for jumping, but trying to do flatwork in it? Oh my... hahaha fortunately it was a jump clinic so this was not tragic.

So we get to start jumping. And the first couple just had me laughing -- esp the canter after which was pretty sweet :)

But then Arthur came to watch his super-horse jump (found out later he's never seen anybody jump him before??? Yikes! Double thanks then for letting me play :) and I promptly forgot how to ride. *sigh* got left behind on the first jump and couldn't quite catch up. Argh. And then overcorrected and got ahead. Pat asks "What were you doing?" "Trying not to get left behind." "Ok that's a good answer. Now go do it again." Eventually I got it, but it took more attempts than it should have! Felt really bad for A watching that. Fortunately Quinny was super kind and didn't seem terribly concerned about it :) Just wanted to go jump some more. Little ears pointing forward every time we turned even slightly towards anything that could potentially be considered a jump :)

One we were supposed to do the gymnastic, canter around the short end, and halt. But it took me more than the short end to get the quality of canter that I wanted, so I rode a circle. But then when I *did* get it it was so amazing I giggled. hahaha and I get from the middle of the ring *insert British accent here* "If you're *quite* through cantering around up there . . ." hahaha but she was laughing too so it was all good.

After that of course the exercise changes to jump the gymnastic and then circle -- so really, I was just a step ahead of the game :) That's my story and I'm sticking to it. The first couple flying changes I asked for were ummmm dramatic too :) hahaha but eventually I located the right degree of aid needed.

Had a laugh at one point the exercise was ride a canter circle (and we launched into that transition! hahaha oops :) and then go all the way around and jump a tiny vert and all the way around once more by which point it'd be an oxer. So we did that. And the immediate comment was "you need to jump higher" hahaha yes, yes we do :) So we went around a few times with it getting slightly higher each time. Never *actually* got big but at least got to play a bit :) I swear that pony has springs in his shoes!!!

Looking at the video afterwards I have to admit it looked neither as discoordinated nor as dramatic as it felt. Which I suppose is a good thing - rather like any other ride really. But man, it's now Tuesday and I still grin at the memory of it :) I wish I could share that feeling cause the videos just look like any other little horse cantering around over tiny speedbumps. But the feel. Wow. I guess drive your 20yo K-car around the track and then drive your 2011 Ferrari around the track. From the outside it's a car going around in circles. But from the driver's seat . . . I got a few comments from Pat about the excessive smile :) hahaha ah well -- better than being told to relax!

The interesting theory conversation of the day was where to look -- off in the distance or at the fence. Pat, as with many other ul clinicians I've ridden with (Andrew Hoy in particular I remember really making a point of this), suggests looking at the fence on the approach (at least in your peripheral vision) until takeoff. "Beam your horse to the jump", and the corollary of course "jump one fence at a time" -- a couple riders' horses had in trouble when the rider was mentally on the third or fourth fence of the combo and their horse was still on the second. You could see a huge difference in the horse's ability when the rider stayed "in the moment".

The only thing that could've possibly made that day better would've been to have been riding said awesome horse in the afternoon group which got to jump much higher :) But honestly, I haven't had that much fun since Zel. Which leads me to believe that perhaps Sienna, as superstar as she is, isn't really the right horse for me; cause to be quite honest, as much as I wanted to ride her, I wouldn't've had nearly so much fun. Starting to think now she may go in the school earlier than originally intended and I'll have to find me an unbroke sportscar model (since my budget never has and likely never will afford the broke version :) And so Entry it is again *sigh* Well we shall see. Have a lot of other things that need to happen in there too!

So take-aways from the clinic:
- breathe.
- position position position. Leg must be still. Hands must be independent.
- sit UP! Don't commit to a jump before your horse does. At best you throw him off balance. At worst you jump the fence alone.
- use bounces to teach balance, coordination and thinking.
- visualize -- horses think in pictures, so should you.
- love your horse and make sure they know it.
- stop while it's still good.

Pat Burgess Clinic - Day 1

Wow. So that was a clinic and a half :) Over two days I:
- learned a ton!
- felt my riding improve significantly
- laughed more than I have in a long time
- provided comic relief for everybody else

HUGE thanks to Pat Burgess for flying all the way out here to teachus, being an amazing clinician who managed to make a difference in everybody from the most novice rider to the Advanced level competitor (and all the rest of us inbetween :), AND for being sucha great inspiration! If I'm still going the way she is at 80 I'llbe one very happy person :)

More thanks to Arthur. This could take a post all in itself. First for once again providing this amazing facility for the clinic,getting everything ready, hosting and organizing. And then as if that weren't enough, for going so far above and beyond and lending me his absolutely amazing horse for the second day when mine couldn'tmake it. I'm still stunned he did that, honoured that he did, and still grinning from the ride :) You should see the pictures :)

And equally huge thanks to Suzanne who had the facility spotless when we got there, stayed late after day one to harrow the ring for day two, came early to help move fences on when day two got rained on,took pictures day one, totally spoiled me with taking care of "thered-headed Connemara" when I inherited him for day two, spent allweekend setting fences and hauling poles around, and just generallymade the whole weekend an easy and pleasant experience.

Also thanks to Trevor, Sue and Suzanne (again!) for the wonderful photos!

That's the short version.... For the looonnnnngggg version, feel free to read on :)

Consider yourself forewarned!!! As always,comments welcome -- especially from those who were there!

Day 1:

First group rides at 8:30, my group to ride at 10:30. But me being me, the chance to learn something, even from the ground, I'm going to be there before 8:30 :) Any chance to vulture a good coach's lesson I'm likely to take, but one like this??? No way I'm missing out. But this does mean getting up stupidly early to get to the barn and feed Sienna, pack up while waiting for her to eat, get her ready, load in the dark (I'm forever grateful for how well she loads!) and head out. Drive was just a little over an hour, pretty much as Google promised. Suzanne met us in the driveway (which until she said I'd had no idea she was working there now :) and directed me to parking and Sienna's stall. Got Si settled pretty quickly (I've never had a horse so easy to take places. Alone in a strange area and she's happy as can be so long as she has hay :) and headed out to the ring where people were moving poles around. "I brought an extra set of hands - how can I help?" Oh well we're just about done. Hahaha perfect timing! So I met Pat, who despite having just flown in from England yesterday and being somewhat jet-lagged was radiating energy and enthusiasm. Volunteering for ring-crew duty got me a place in the middle of the ring -- right where I wanted to be :) From there you can see and hear everything and ask a million questions of the clinician that you couldn't otherwise (she might've been ready to be rid of me by the end of the weekend :) And since day one was all about gymnastics, ring-crew actually *did* have a job to do!

Now I have to say, I learned almost as much listening to that first group as riding in the second group. The first group was all 4-5yo horses so Pat took things a little slower and as a result, added in more detail. The first focus was on breathing. Breath in and out in a steady rhythm that matches your horse's stride (and thus their breathing). Ie, in for four beats, out for five. Etc. Pick whatever number works for you and focus on it. Relaxes you. Relaxes your horse. And if you're BOTH used to do this every time you get on, then when you get on in a tense environment it can significantly increase your odds of success.

Another of her first suggestions was teaching your horse "ho" as a halt voice aid as opposed to "whoa". Why? Because when you need it at X in your dressage test you can sigh a *ho* without it ever appearing you've said anything to your horse. Woah isn't quite subtle enough for that :) hahaha And always "love your horse" -- let them know when you're happy with them in a way they understand (hard scratch at the withers, strong pat, etc - as another horse would communicate with them) so that it's to their benefit to do what you're asking them to do. And then your responsibility is to do it right. Have good enough position to at very least, never be in their way, at best, to help. The focus of the clinic was on jumping so she didn't speak much to flat position, but did do a lot about jumping position.

"Jumping is 60% balance and 40% grip. And the grip must be your calf NOT your knee or thigh (as that will throw off your balance) and above all else, not your hand!" She suggests having the foot touching the inside of the stirrup bar -- which was new to me. Felt weird weird weird, but I admit it definitely helped make my leg a little more secure. Tricky though -- after 20+ years of riding w/ my foot on the outside bar it was more difficult to change than I would've thought. hahaha Then there was the conversation about folding at the hip instead of the waist -- eventers tend, as a group, to do the later as it's more secure and has a faster recovery time, but it doesn't allow the horse the same freedom to jump (hence why showjumpers don't do it). Pat was great for long thoroughly involved analogies. Here was the jumping position one:

- you're sitting at home in your favourite chair. There's a glass of wine on the coffee table in front of you and you're watching your favourite tv program. If you get up, somebody's going to steal your chair. So you stretch way forward for your wine (conveniently located about half way up your horse's crest :), while keeping your seat in its position so as not to lose your seat. And that tv show is just so exciting you're not about to take your eyes off it :) And your feet stay on the floor all the time.

Ok so it's a bit random, but it amused me :) And she made a point of emphasizing the use of the stirrups. Put your weight in your feet, not the saddle. Keep your weight in your heels and calf tight -- once you lift your knee up you have no support and will be thrown into the back seat. Alternately if your leg comes back you'll be tipped forwards. Either way, no good for the poor horse who's trying to jump under you! She did come around to each person and position them and have them practice sliding in and out of said position. Because of course her other thing was timing; you should be sitting UP on the approach -- no jumping position until the horse takes off. Most of the injuries in riding come from jumping ahead of the horse. Not only does this throw off their balance and make it much harder for them to pick their feet up, but it also puts the rider in a precarious position should the horse chip or quit. (hmmmm "jump first, jump alone" sound familiar anybody?) She drilled this in the gymnastics having the riders come back to a full vertical position in the one-stride (which some found very challenging!) and forward again on the out. And as though that weren't enough, when you come back to the vertical, staying light so as not to hollow or restrict the horse. This was turned into a bit of a game, scoring on a 1-10 scale. hahaha It worked though – by the end everybody was much better at it and the horses were jumping much freer.

So I had learned all this before I ever even got ON my horse :) hahaha and *this* is why I vulture other people's lessons. Particularly theory is sometimes easier to absorb when you're not also trying to ride.

The exercise itself that they were working through was a gymnastic on the centre line. Started with several trot poles with "sticks" running along the sides of them to keep the horse centered. The idea throughout the whole day was that the horse should have complete freedom in their head or neck to stretch. Then there was an X in the middle. Then the X became an oxer. And a new X was added at the beginning. And then the oxer became an X again and a third fence was added at the end (so now you've got a one to a one with ground lines in the middle of each). Then the last ground rail became another X giving one to a bounce to a bounce. Lastly the last fence became an oxer.

So a couple things with this -- oxers always had a groundline on the landing side as well. This was one of my many questions -- why :) She patiently explained that the groundline on the landing side helped encourage the horse's bascule as they would drop their eye to it in the air. Cool :) I felt less silly for asking when another rider whom I really respect asked the same question an hour later *g* The bounces are used to teach balance, coordination/thinking, and proper jumping technique. Jumping green horses, esp at the trot, they'll often push off of only one leg. The bounce forces them to use both hind legs together to push off. Coordination/thinking -- how to get both feet in and out without knocking anything over and without panicking. And balance for both horse and rider to do all this without ending up ahead or on the forehand. She uses Xs rather than verticals to get them to tuck their knees up evenly. And lastly, never end on a bounce (was the first I'd heard this). After you've backed them off and made them really rock back and compress, it's important to get them jumping forward again. Essentially the same concept as finishing collected work in dressage with stretchy/forward work. So she opened the gymnastic back into a one to a one and had them do that a few times, and then worked on a single fence off on the side all by itself in canter. Most of the horses were cantering *really* nicely after all that gymnastic work!!!

Then it was my turn :) I went and tacked up my pony -- was very proud of her for standing in x-ties despite being in a new environment with other horses unloading right outside the door! Took her out and hopped on and she walked around as quietly as an old school pony. She hasn't been offsite in several weeks so I wasn't sure what she'd do, but she was awesome! Stayed quiet through everybody getting ready and the intro discussion. Was an absolute pro-star through the pole exercises. A little sticky though – we didn't really do the warm-up she needs (ie there was no canter work before we started jumping, and she rarely relaxes and stretches properly before we canter). I gave her a tap with my stick once in the gymnastic -- and the stick promptly got removed and replaced with a dressage whip. A very long dressage whip *g* Like Denny, Pat recommends if you're going to carry something it should be a "tickler" that you can use without shifting your balance or your contact. But of course once I was carrying that, Si wasn't about to hesitate at anything again and we were good to go. After two or three rounds I was able to drop it. Pat prefers the dressage whip to the crop or spurs (very much against spurs) but was happier still with riders needing nothing extra at all.

Anyways Si was jumping around all the aforementioned exercises like a pro-star so I was able to focus solely on me. Pat tweaked my position slightly and what a difference it made. Wow. Played with stirrup length a fair bit trying to find the "sweet spot" and ended up at the length I generally ride with anyways :) I was pretty excited though. Sort of interesting she put my leg where she wanted it to be and asked me how it felt -- and it actually felt like it was off the horse, but when I looked down, sure enough it was solid. My EQ's generally pretty reasonable, but this felt like it solidified it. That final level that I just haven't been able to apply consistently. So yeah I was pretty over the moon excited. And then I went to go again -- it was the start of the "opened up" gymnastic after all the bouncing. We'd had a bit of a long break while a horse had a meltdown in their turnout field and had to be brought in... And when I started to trot, Si was way off :( I was so disappointed. Got off her - no heat, no swelling, nothing in her feet. *sigh* Only thing I can think is that the bruise she had this summer maybe wasn't completely healed and she caught it somehow. :( Booo. So we hung out in the ring and watched the rest of the lesson.

After that was lunch -- which was provided for us! Woohoo :) How very civilized is that??? So I grazed my pony for an hour or so while others were doing the lunch thing and then let her hang out in her stall again while I watched the next lesson. All the while trying to figure out what I was going to do the next day. Rachel gave me permission right away to take her horse, so I figured I'd lunge Si in the am and then decide what I was doing. Even contemplated bringing both horses and figuring something out once I got there. Cause I really wanted to school my horse. But I'd rather ride anything than not ride at all. And while I was concerned Moe wouldn't be fit enough to do the whole class (2h of jumping is a little much for his current fitness level) I figured half a class would be better than none. Somewhere in there Arthur mentioned to me sort-of off-hand "well you could ride one of mine", but I didn't really know if he was serious or just being polite and definitely didn't want to take advantage, so I just thanked him and let it go.

The last group was a repeat of the previous two, this time w/ T/P level horses so the jumps were up a little higher. But was interesting to see the same principles being applied with the same results, regardless of level. And to watch the comments and changes Pat made to the riders.

When they finished up, we cleared the ring of the jumps, I cleaned out Si's stall, loaded her on the trailer and headed home...

Quick update

So the clinic last weekend was amazing. It is up on the GRS blog for those who reallyreallyreally want it now. I'm waiting to post it here till I figure out how to convert the videos to include. Hopefully up tonight :)

Have been interested by the Globe and Mail's latest series, although admittedly I haven't had time to actually see any more of it than the billboards. Asking interesting discussion questions:
- should our soldiers help the good people or kill the bad people?
- our boys aren't failing, they just need lower standards
- Your career or your weekends. Pick one.

Apparently there're 8 of these but these are the only ones I've seen so far (although I'm quite sure Google would tell me what the other ones are :)

Off to work with me :)

Where, exactly, did this week go?

So when I was a student a good friend and I both had jobs that had certain tasks that, shall we say, did not require a *ton* of intellect. For which we were very well paid but bored out of our little minds. And when we were stuck doing such tasks we referred to it as "chimping" -- as in work so dull and repetitive a chimp could easily do it. So I had a good laugh and an instant flashback when I was in a meeting this afternoon discussing with a client sections of their project that the will be responsible for, and in response to one of the monotonous data entry variety his comment was along the lines of "that's ok, we'll just hire a reasonably intelligent monkey to do it." hahaha absolutely loved it. But then, there's a reason I like these clients :)

Bought enough school supplies at the GH sale that there's no going back now. Both a scary and a very exciting thought :) AND I came in under budget. Seriously. How many of you can say that? >;-P Of course that mostly happened cause I cut some things from the list w/o shrinking said budget accordingly (as one of my friends figured out on FB :). hahaha but what can you do eh?

Due to lack of time I'm afraid there's no new FridayFlash this week. I reposted an older one, Life Skills at http://laurencude.blogspot.com/ if you're in need of a read.

And likewise TheoryThursday... Well it actually *is* almost ready to go -- but as I'm clinicing all weekend I'm not sure when. Might be more like TheorySunday >;-P Ah well.

A friend sent me this which amused me to no end, so I thought I'd share. From TheOatmeal:








"Listen to the bird . . ."


(more pics on Facebook)


So to recap -- Thanksgiving was held at the cottage. Family togetherness was celebrated by shooting at one another; as well it should be :) The cooking of the turkey is an equally interesting adventure...

Now also in traditional Thanksgiving gatherings is the Thanksgiving turkey. However, you have to understand, at the cottage there is no electricity. So we have to be a little more inventive about how things are done. We do have a little propane oven, but it's hardly going to be big enough to cook a turkey big enough for ten! How do you cook a turkey w/o an oven? Easy -- in the garbage can! Sadly, I'm not kidding...


First step: hunt yourself a turkey. (hahaha ok so that might be a *slight* exaggeration but I couldn't resist :)


Prepare the "oven" -- note, we would recommend against using a plastic garbage can >;-P


Prepare the bird (should *not* be frozen!)


Place bird on stick (I'll never look at a popsicle the same way again)


Cover with can and light fire to some charcoal



Allow to sit for about an hour and a half. But you have to understand, it's not a by-the-clock thing. Over the years our master chef has "learned to *listen* to the bird". Yes he actually managed to say that with a straight face and the right tone. It was quite impressive. hahaha apparently it has something to do with when you hear it sizzling.... "Listen to the bird." If you take one thing from today's post, that should be it. After all, maybe someday the bird will tell winning lottery numbers!



Now since we have some family members allergic to turkey, we also always have an alternative. This year's was brisket -- and how do you cook a brisket? In an egg >;-P Yeah, once again, I'm not joking.



But I'll tell ya, despite the somewhat unusual cooking methods, both critters come out incredibly tasty. And as for the pumpkin pie? It was very very yummy. But has to be served with so much whipped cream you can't actually *see* said pie :) hahaha

Now really, isn't that so much more fun than Great Aunt Sally pinching the cheeks of the not-so-little kids who would rather be anywhere else?

Thanksgiving Traditions - the Paintball Edition

So Thanksgiving weekend was a blast. Now traditions vary from family to family, but Thanksgiving (at least among most of the people I've spoken to) generally involves a family dinner with Turkey and Pumpkin Pie. Great Aunt Sally comes in and pinches the cheeks of everybody under the age of 20. The men sit around watching football while the women gossip in the kitchen. Kids running around -- kicked out to play in the fall weather. Any of this sounding familiar? Dinner is served -- turkey and pumpkin pie. Grandma's traditional cranberry sauce. Yummmy. All good right?

Well ours family does this too -- after all, they raised me, they must do everything the normal way >;-P Right. You're not new here.

hahaha so first of all, Thanksgiving takes place at my aunt's cottage up in Muskoka (which, btw, is one of my favourite places on the planet so I'll be very disappointed if they ever choose not to host it there :) -- but it means quite the drive up. So I promptly deemed the Friday a half day (after my afternoon meetings conveniently were all canceled -- clearly I'm not the only one inclined to extend a long weekend!) and headed out. Not tooooo much traffic, and a great drive with the changing leaves. Probably about 3-5 days too late for the *really* spectacular leaves, but it was still pretty good.

So Thanksgiving -- a time to reflect on the things we're most thankful for. One of which is traditionally family. So how do we recognize this wonderful event? Yeah we go out and shoot each other >;-P hahaha somewhere over the last few years a reasonably new tradition of Thanksgiving Paintball has arisen. Due primarily to my
work/teaching schedule I've never made it up in time to experience this, but this year I was there, so of course I went along. The fact that I've never played before, shot a pellet gun exactly once the night before (AND hit the target >;-) and otherwise my entire weaponry knowledge was playing laser tag in highschool, is entirely irrelevant. hahaha Now to be honest, I didn't expect to enjoy it all that much, but I had an absolute blast. We were outside in perfect weather on an approx 100 acre property -- of which we were using maybe 10? (my estimating of property size isn't entirely accurate so I could be way off on that, but sounds good to me; big enough to run around not so big as to be exhausted just getting there :) And they had forts and foxholes and a variety of other things to keep life entertaining.

So we, and the other families there, get divided into two teams -- Canada vs US (I know, inventive eh? And of course Canada consistently won :). First game, the US team went out to guard the fortress and Canada was to invade (I was on the Canadian team, along with one of my uncles, two of my cousins, and some extra people. My other uncle, cousins, and dad were all on the other team). So my cousins clearly had a plan (they've played more than a *few* times) so I asked if I could join them or if that'd get them killed. After a significant glance at each other manners clearly won out over instinct and they said I could come "if you can keep up" hahaha they don't know me very well :) So we took off running all the way around a side path to get to the back of the fortress for a rear attack. When we got almost to the back we were spotted and the fire fight started. I found a fence I could be behind and from there started shooting, while the boys kept running to get around the back. I picked off one random stranger and (I found out later) my uncle before thoroughly losing a battle with somebody in another tower. Nailed me with a headshot. I'll tell ya -- the walk of shame back through the war with your hands over your head, not so much fun. Even less so (albeit somewhat amusing) when you walk into base to see people's eyes widen "are you ok???" I kinda wish I'd had a camera with this yellow dye all in my hair and all over my face. Truly attractive I tell ya :) But I raided the supply of paper towels and soon enough all was well with the world again. Fortunately my cousins did much better and pretty much wiped out the rest of the Americans on their own before one really great player on the other team got both of them. hahaha Next we switched teams -- and defending wasn't nearly as much fun. Boring even. I think I fired all of about two shots that round. Could've had a nap in my fort for all the effort the other team was making to claim it *sigh*

Round two was fort against fort -- pretty much like it seems. One team in one fort, another team in the other. Try to take control of both of them. This was disturbingly easy. I left the fort right at the beginning and stuck right near it, working my way to the other and shooting at anybody who tried to leave the other fort. My cousins took the longer route through the woods around behind while I
tried to fire at anybody who might give them any grief. My aim is, well, questionable at best *g* but at least it let them know where somebody was coming from :) Managed to take out one of my US cousins hiding in the opposing tower just as my teammates were getting there. The best part was my cousin who "mercy"d my dad -- with an empty gun. hahaha classic. So we ended up with the Canadian team in both forts shooting at each other >;-P Eventually the ref called it - no American's left. What a shame.

Round three was capture the flag -- this was where I discovered my kamikaze instincts! hahaha got so frustrated with nobody doing anything to actually get the flag, that I did. And got it back within a foot of our fort before I was shot in the back by my uncle >;-P (admittedly the same one I'd killed earlier, so fair enough I guess :) But being there, one of my teammates was easily able to step out and grab it for the win. Switching forts the game continued -- I ran out of bullets in that round so spent some time scaring people by firing an empty gun *g* I made two kamazi runs (you got two lives in this game) for the flag, but sadly was rather savagely shot down in both of them. The 2nd attempt drew enough fire that my teammate *was* able to get in from the other side and snag the flag out though, so we won yet again.

A great family gathering :) I'm sure it'll catch on everywhere.

----

Note - The other "traditional" Thanksgiving item is the turkey -- but that story definitely requires pictures and alas Blogger is not happy with photos today... So as soon as I can upload you'll get the rest of the story :)

The Role of the Student and the Trainer

(From LinkedIn via GRS -- gotta love social networks! :)

So I found a thread on LinkedIn that interested me enough to post a response and I thought I'd repost here. As always, comments very welcome.

The questions raised were:

If you are Client of an Equestrian establishment, do you tell your instructor what you want to achieve, develop a plan to deliver those goals and then work with constant two way communication?

If you provide an equine/rider training establishment, do you teach only what you know or are you flexible to you clients wishes? How do you cope with someone wanting to ride in a "Classical" manner when this may be outside of your current knowledge?


And my response:

I think the discussion has shifted somewhat from the original question, with Denise's point starting to bring it back on track. The first question regards the role of a client. A novice client, as Julie mentioned, often has no idea what they really want, so the question is not entirely applicable. However, an intermediate or advanced client absolutely should work with the coach to develop a plan for their goals; and as Denise mentioned it's part of the coach's responsibility to say if those goals are unrealistic. My coach is certainly aware of my goals, both short, middle and long term. Ie, my short term goal is for my current horse to jump quietly and confidently around a PT/Novice level horse trial. She will never be an upper level prospect, but my middle goal is for her to be a strong T/P level packer one day that can help bring students along. And my long term goal is for the horse I hope one day to own who may help me get to the upper levels. We are both aware that my skills and my current horse are appropriate for the current short and middle goals, and neither of us are ready for the later one. My coach's job is to help me get there. My job is to let him help me by diligently working on the skills he feels need work and by seriously considering his advice -- even when it's something I don't want to hear. That doesn't mean follow in blind faith; there are always second opinions for anything serious. But when it comes down to it, he's a pro whom I've hired for his knowledge and experience and if I'm not going to take it, I'm wasting my money and his time.

From the coaching/training aspect I have an issue with this question: "do you teach only what you know or are you flexible to your client's wishes?" as these are two different issues. I firmly believe you should teach only what you know. I'm an event coach. I teach strong basics for anybody and then intermediate skills for each of the three phases of eventing. That being said, when I have a student who decides they would rather be a hunter rider, I find them a good hunter coach. It is not my area and I won't be able to give them everything they need to succeed (up to and including support at the shows, since they conflict with the HTs). Likewise a student who wants to go into straight jumper or dressage -- I can take them a little farther, but eventually they'll need a coach that specializes in those disciplines. Usually in that case I refer them to my coaches since I tend to ride with a different coach for each phase. This to me is different from being "flexible to your client's wishes". If a student wants to try a new sport within the same basic skill set (which for eventing is pretty broad) I will absolutely do everything I can to help them do that at the low levels. This can and has included things like hunter, fox hunting, trail riding, endurance riding, jumper, dressage, vaulting, pony club and gaming. If they try it and decide that's what they want to do seriously, then we're back to finding them a coach qualified to take them as far as they want to go. But if they just want to play around and have some fun, absolutely I'll teach them what they need to know and support them at their outtings. And as often as not I'll get other students to give it a try too, since cross-training is beneficial to everybody and learning new things is usually more fun in a group.

So overall - the responsibility of the student (at any level) is to educate themselves (read, watch the pros, visit local horse shows, and most importantly THINK and ask questions!) and through that start planning goals (and "to ride safely and have fun" is a completely valid goal! Not everybody wants to go to the Olympics). The responsibility of the trainer is to provide the best means of helping the student achieve these goals -- even if at some point that means referring them to another trainer.

"One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose." -Randy Pausch

So I spent this beautiful sunny day renewing my first aid for the umteenth time. Funfunfun let me tell you. At least the instructor was good -- one of the better ones I've seen. But I have to say I feel no more confident in my abilities than I did yesterday. The things I know, I know very well -- and was good to have confirmed that I'm still doing things right (although really, what challenge is it to create a sling with a triangle bandage?!?! It's only an art when you can do it with a polo :) And the things I don't know well, I still hope I never have to deal with. But such is life eh?

What I did find interesting was that I have taken this course every 2-3 years since I was 12, and this is the first time *ever* that I saw somebody fail. She was horrifically useless. And the worst part? She's in nursing school! How scary is that?!?!

Had a good laugh at work the other day. I'm working on a project that involves lots of latinate names and scientific terms, most of which I admittedly pretty well glaze over. Anyway, one of the files wasn't working so I sent an email to the person I got it from asking if he "could possibly re-upload echmatocrinus brachiatus as it appears to be corrupted."

Reasonable request right? Just had to share the response I got: "You know, when you get up in the morning, you never expect to be dealing with a corrupted Echmatocrinus brachiatus, do you? I know I don't. Always sad when an Echmatocrinus goes bad ..." hahaha Well I got a good laugh out of it anyways. But then, we know I'm a geek *g* Was a good start to an otherwise crazy day. :)

Awesome ride tonight. In the dark :) Or I suppose technically in the moonlight. Which was even better. Not pitch black -- enough light to see shapes, but not much more. Something I used to do all the time, but can count on one hand the number of times I've done with Sienna. N she was absolutely amazing. A little high of course -- to be expected, but otherwise round and floaty and responsive. I'm still smiling from it, hours later :)

Anyways - I'm on a "bit" of a sugar/caffeine high at the moment and have about reached my limit for sitting still so am off to do something productive. Night!

Recommended FridayFlash

So just as I don't get to write nearly as much as I'd like to (Thanksgiving might be *next* weekend - or maybe I'll borrow the US holiday instead, that'd buy me a few weeks. :), I don't get enough time to read either. There are some *really* talented writers doing the #FridayFlash thing and I never get to read enough of them. This one though started out well and got better with every word. There aren't too many that do that. Take the two minutes to read the story Fences by G.P.Ching - well worth it...
Excerpt:
"Phoebe loathed the walk home from her bus stop after school. Not that the short jaunt was difficult, but the slope of the sidewalk afforded her a terrifying view behind her neighbor's fence...
- http://genevieveching.blogspot.com/2010/10/fridayflash-fences.html

Enjoy!

hmmmmm I think I'll try and find a "recommended" story each week :) Might make it so I actually get to read a few more of them :) Thoughts?

#FridayFlash 53: Wedding Magic

"When I look at you I remember a little girl who believed in magic," my aunt told me wistfully, "what happened to her?"

"She grew up." I told her bluntly. The hardness of my carefully crafted cynicism hiding the stab of pain at the memory of what once was. It was a facade that had been serving me well for years; she didn't see through it.

Leaving me to sulk, she returned to my mother's wedding. It was my mom's fifth. My sisters and I had a pool going -- I, on the realist end, had taken the 6 month to 1 year option. Gloria, ever the romantic had declared this one would last. The other girls were playing it safe somewhere in the middle -- after all, it had been an incredibly romantic ceremony. Suckers. It was all too easy to take their money. I'd yet to lose.

I was not a good enough actress to pull off happiness and excitement for the wedding, but I also had no wish to spoil my mother's night, so instead I a walk along the path away from the house, lit by an eerily vibrant moon. After only a few steps I kicked my feet out of the treacherous heels and continued, feeling moderately rebellious, without them.

The path I found myself on wound its way through the garden, but never far from the moon's rays; while part of me felt a primal instinct to fear the dark, a stronger part of me was so grateful to avoid the farce that it seemed a relief to escape to the shadows.

I sat on a decorative marble bench, my back to the lights of the party and looked out at play of light and shadow. As I watched I realized it wasn’t anger or cynicism or frustration that kept me from being able to enjoy the party; I was genuinely sad for my mom. Perhaps it was my aunt’s comment that did it, but somehow the piece of me that once believed in magic surfaced and I asked of the moonlight: “If love is real, why can’t my mother find it? Nobody tries as hard as she.”

“Because true love generally comes uninvited and unlooked for. Those who try too hard, accept a mere parody of the emotion and therefore, it cannot last.”

I jumped at the voice – at once both angry and embarrassed at having been overheard. Until I realized I was still alone. I looked all around and saw nothing. Called but no one answered. More than slightly freaked out, I turned and headed back quickly towards the lights of the party, moving as quickly as I could without appearing to be running from shadows.

“Why do you run from the truth?” I spun around. The voice was very different, but there was still nobody to be seen.

“What truth?” I demanded angrily. “How can you speak truth while hiding in shadow? Show yourself!” Brave on the outside, shaking within. All the time wondering if anybody would hear me if I shouted.

I heard a sigh, “I thought she could see us?” a younger voice asked, disappointment evident. And somehow I knew I was the ‘she’ in question.

“She used to be able to,” another answered.

And from the first, sadly, “she used to believe in magic.”

“Where are you?” I asked again, less frightened and more annoyed. As though everybody were laughing at a joke I didn’t get.

For a long moment there was no answer, and then somebody deigned to speak: “You look, but don’t see. Open your mind to the possibilities and then look closely at the moon’s beams.”

The moon’s beams my mind raced backwards as I was sucked into a memory. My mom’s second wedding – I was six, wearing the most beautiful princess dress I’d ever seen, and I’d just gotten a new dad and a new brother. And I was ecstatic. “Look at the moonbeam,” my mom said to me, crouching down to my level and showing me the unusual way the single beam shone through the trees. And I suddenly recalled my response.

“There are fairies dancing on it,” I whispered the phrase I had once uttered excitedly. And suddenly I could see.

“Welcome back,” the most regal of the fairies said with a smile and a slight nod. “For a while I thought we’d lost you.”

“So she can see us now?!?!” It was the younger voice again, and I attached it to a fairy who was zipping back and forth almost too quickly for the eye to register.

“Well she can if you sit still!” another responded, irritation evident in her tone.

I was too stunned to comment. I hadn’t had anything to drink, much less smoke, yet I was seeing fairies on the moonlight.

“Others accept us without ever seeing, so why is it so hard for you to accept what you can see in front of you?” one of the calmer voices asked curiously.

“You can’t be real,” I stated; knowing how ridiculous that statement was. If they weren’t real and I was talking to them, I had a serious problem. And if they were real, I was proving myself an idiot. Idiot or insane? I wasn’t sure which would be the worse fate.

“And yet we are,” the one I had deemed to be the leader spoke, “and so is Love.”
Even though I instantly wished I hadn’t, I rolled my eyes. But she didn’t seem to take offence, just smiled an eerily knowing smile, “you just have to open your eyes to it.”

A heavy cloud rolled in front of the moon, breaking the beam, “Gotta fly!!!” the young one zipped in front of me and exclaimed excitedly, “hope we get to see you again!!!!” she seemed to speak entirely in exclamation marks.

“And you,” I replied. But they were gone.

Lost in a world of memories and magic, I returned to the party with a much lighter heart, and open eyes.

Someday I'll have time to write...

So I had a really great and highly entertaining Thanksgiving weekend, which will have a story and pics up eventually :) Just been a crazy week!

In the interim -- this week's Theory Thursday is all about aids - what they are and how to use them.

Cross-training at its finest...

(from GRS Blog)

My coach had a somewhat unusual new technique for me the other day, and given that it seemed too simple I wasn't entirely convinced of its effectiveness, but I gave it a solid attempt and was pleasantly surprised at the results.

So I followed up with this by asking a few of the good riders I know to give it a try and let me know what they thought. And they did a lot of smiling and nodding of the "uh huh Laur, sure why not" variety clearly thinking little more of this than I did... But being used to the strange and unusual things I come up w/ (or in this case, inherit from my coach :) AND always being open to the idea that something new might help improve their riding, they each gave it a go. And were pretty happy with the results.

This being the case a few of us have started testing this somewhat unusual focus with our students -- and after the laughs and looks of disbelief we are treated to when we first mention it (except for the girls who've been with me for years who are now surprised when they *don't* hear something strange and unusual on a fairly regular basis :) all of our students seem to be having reasonable success with this too...

Given all that, I thought I'd share with a broader audience (there goes that ego again, hoping people actually read this! :) How many times have you been told to keep your heels down, turn your toes out, or tighten your calf while jumping? Anybody who's been jumping more than about a week probably can't count the number... So next time you're jumping, instead of trying to accomplish any or all of those, jump a few fences with the focus being entirely on spreading your toes apart. (hmmmm I can see the rolling eyes now!). But seriously -- try it even just standing on the ground. As you spread your toes, the middle three will lift as will the ball of your feet (essentially dropping the weight and balance into your heels), your feet will turn out slightly, and the muscle at the back of your calf will tighten. All of the things you want to happen going over a fence.

Give it a try :) Worst thing that happens is you feel a little silly. Best thing is your position improves significantly. Personally, that's a risk I'm willing to take :)

And the cross-training part of the title? This advice originally came not from a riding coach, but from a yoga coach.

Happy Thanksgiving from WKRP

This one's for my uncles Doug and Jamie :) Enjoy!

Easy stuff

Had such a relaxed lesson this am and it left me in such a happy place :) No pressure. Possibly the easiest lesson I've had in years (of the type that if it didn't only happen once a century or so I'd be bored out of my mind). Bright sunny morning. Horse was awesome. Flatwork was mostly transitions, which we've been practicing (yeah once in a while luck's on our side :) so that went well. Jumping was of the trot/canter around n jump whatever you feel like variety. A few times fences randomly grew when I was busy jumping something else but it was all super-easy. Focus on rider EQ (always good :) and horse rhythm (trickier :)

#fridayflash 52: A new horse

"So who's the new horse?"

"What new horse?" I questioned, giving my student a puzzled look.

"The grey out with Jasper."

"I don't have any grey horses and Jasper's turned out alone," I told her as I headed out to the paddocks to check. Sure enough when I got there, Jasper was grazing quite peacefully on his own -- no sign of any new horses in any of the paddocks. I looked at Kellie and raised an eyebrow.

"I *swear* there was another horse out here when I came to get Swizzle. Gorgeous grey -- and you know I don't usually like greys -- but this one's coat seemed actually white. Had its hindend turned to me, was grazing over in the corner," she pointed to where she'd seen the mystery horse.

"Ok," I didn't really know what to say. She wasn't prone to hallucinations and it was a gorgeous fall day -- too cool to be heat stroke. No signs of drugs or alcohol use. "Are you feeling ok?" She rolled her eyes in dismissal in typical teenage fashion. Ok no worries there. "Well, if you see the mystery horse again, take a pic for me." I told her, only half joking.

We dismissed the incident and moved on -- the whole thing turning into one of those jokes that decades from now would still hold meaning for us and no other. A week later I was turning out horses. The morning was a photographers dream -- our valley was shrouded in mist, and the sun had just crested the hill behind the paddocks, it's beams emphasizing the power of the mist as they failed to penetrate it. The first four horses were already out and I was walking out with the fifth, still half asleep and appreciating the quiet morning, I had the horse in the paddock and was taking off her halter before I realized we weren't alone. I looked in disbelief. There, hidden in the mist, a stunning grey horse was grazing at the end of the paddock. But none of the other horses had given any indication there was a stranger in their midsts. I quickly relocated my mare to another paddock, keeping my eye on the new horse the whole time.

That paddock had been empty, so the gate had been open -- I entered, closing it behind me out of habit. I approached from the side as I would any horse; the mist was playing mind tricks -- the horse seemed to waver in and out of my vision. At times seeming to disappear into the mist and otherwise being as solid as all the other horses around us. The geldings I had turned out first were watching me attentively, but seemed to be paying little attention to the new horse. While she had yet to acknowledge my presence by so much as a sideways glance. What horse didn't at least make note of a strange person in their vicinity?

What I saw next would challenge all I'd ever been taught. The horse lifted her head and looked over her shoulder at me, finally acknowledging my existence, and when she did, I froze. Protruding from her head was a long, thin, crystalline horn. She flipped her head, tossing her mane in a way that only ever happens in fiction, took two canter strides, cleared the paddock fence with perfect form, and was swallowed by the mist. All while my brain struggled to combine what I'd seen with what I knew. A unicorn? Unicorns didn't exist. They certainly didn't graze in my paddock. And yet, I had seen it.

A trick. It had to be a trick. Somebody glued something on the horse's forehead. But then, where had the horse come from and where had it gone? And how come none of my horses had been concerned about it? Cows were regarded as monsters plotting world domination, sheep -- well anything little and fluffy that bounces is clearly pure evil, and even ponies were not above suspicion -- but unicorns didn't get so much as a blink from any of them? How could that be possible?

Over the next few days I started carrying my camera everywhere. Each morning I awoke filled with excitement that I might see her again -- turnout was suddenly a chore I looked forward to. I contemplated leaving food for her, but knew that my horses would just eat it. But I never saw her. Beginning to doubt my sanity I became less careful about having the camera and chores returned to feeling like work until one morning, cameraless once more, she returned. I approached cautiously, stopping a few strides away. She looked at me and I felt as though I were being evaluated, although I had no idea the criteria. She flipped her head in the air, once more sending the mane flying, the rising sun reflecting off her horn. Head held high, she stood perfectly still and looked at me. I approached carefully, keeping my eyes down and moving slightly sideways as though she were a skittish horse. After only a few steps I heard the most musical laugher. I stopped and couldn't resist a glance. She was facing me head on, proud and tall. For all she might look like one, this was not a prey animal. She closed the distance between us, staring straight into my eyes the whole time. It was the most disconcerting feeling. Part of me was concerned -- it was a wild animal, I was alone, and I had no idea what she might do. Part of me was absolutely enthralled with awe. I couldn't have moved at that point for anything. And part of me was wondering if I'd actually lost it. Was I really seeing this? Was I dreaming? Hallucinating?

She bowed her head and her horn gently touched my shoulder as though she were knighting me. And then I knew. The myths were true. All of them. And I'd been chosen.

My life would never be the same.



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

So this story was inspired by this article: http://smr.newswire.ca/en/ontario-science-centre/rumoured-unicorn-sighting-reported-in-don-valley

Which I'm *still* shaking my head about, but it amused me so....

In the news...

So decades after passing on, my grandfather is once again in the news :) Arguably not his most brilliant moment, but I was still impressed -- and the picture's sort of kewl :) hmmmm or at least it is when it loads properly! Jeer up, Price: It happens to the best

A random moment...

(from GRS Blog

So I got to the barn quite late due to a meeting running very late n it was soooo gorgeous out all I wanted to do was go for a hack. But there's nowhere to hack, and I had too much to do to trailer out. Really didn't feel like riding around in circles, n Si was still outside very much enjoying her roundbale in the setting sun... So instead I took a carrot out and bonded with my pony and didn't ride at all. She gave me the most puzzled look when I left the paddock w/o her. May regret it when she's superhigh tomorrow *g* But it somehow seemed the right thing to do tonight.

Happy Birthday Supergroom!!!!

Can't be said often enough -- hope you have an absolutely amazing birthday Nicole!!!

A MLIA type post

So I had a good start to my morning - a vet bill arrived yesterday and I acknowledged it this am. (I know, great eh?) Was a little puzzled because I didn't think I had any vet bills outstanding, but knowing some of the vets I use are often 6mths + late with their invoicing I figured it was entirely possible and I'd recognize it when I opened it. So I was quite puzzled when I opened it and found a card. Took me several seconds (early morning, what can I say?) to figure out that it wasn't actually from a "vet" per-say as from a friend who happens to be a vet. hahaha way too confusing for first thing in the am, but a decidedly pleasant surprise.

For the students I was talking to yesterday -- the last FEI discipline is driving. hahaha sorry to all drivers out there that I accidentally forgot your sport! Poor form! So the official list is: dressage, eventing, show jumping, vaulting, endurance, reining and driving. See http://www.horsesport.org/disciplines for more info :)

Had a good laugh riding the other day. Was having a very casual sort of ride and had long since finished working and was mostly standing chatting w/ some people hanging out in the middle of the ring. So I decided it was time to get off and put my horse away and made some off-hand comment to Si (out-loud, not using actual aids :) about "ok so I need you to square up a bit so I can dismount" (we have a new rule that she has to halt at least close to square b4 I dismount due to a tendency to always trail one hindleg). Well doesn't she choose just that second to stand up and bring her hind leg under her. Got some looks of amazement and a good laugh from the people standing around. If only it were always that easy eh?

Guest Post: Coming over to the dark side...

(from Graduate Riding School blog.

Guest post today! Woohoo! I was emailed this story and it made for such a great start to a dreary Monday that I asked permission to share. Background to this -- it was written by my friend Jael who lives entirely too far away (that'd be the other side of our fine, but rather large, country :). Jael is traditionally a dressage rider, but one who likes the idea of jumping over the odd stick; her coach is qualified to teach both dressage and eventing. (can you see where this is going?) So Jael went and bought a super-nice baby horse of the type I quite enjoy. She's not *technically* a chestnut mare (being rather a bay colour) but she definitely *thinks* she is. And said baby horse has lovely movement and is therefore promising for her dressage career. Or at least she was. Until the day she first went over a fence. Realizing there was more to life than a flat 20x60m ring, Bria then insisted on a change to her contract. So with her coach's qualified assistance and my sideline cheering Jael first went XC schooling and having survived that and seeing her horse clearly loved that game, submitted her entry forms. Here we have the story of her and Bria's first horsetrial. For those who think they could never *possibly* event -- read and reconsider :) For those who've been there, enjoy the memories. I did :) Welcome to the Dark Side Jael. May you never go back :)

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Show Report!

Ok, so as I'm sure you gathered, we lived! And yes, this is a novel!

We shipped in Friday night (events here are always 2, sometimes 3 days), and I had instructions to make sure the pony was sufficiently tired to keep her mind on the job... I took her to the back ring to lunge... only catch is that the back ring is next to XC. Which is the same course that she's done most of her schooling on, so she immediately grew to about 18hh. Oiy. We had energy! Think ears up, flying mane, flaring nostrils, fire breathing dragon worthy snorting etc etc. And I had her in side reins, to the whole thing was pretty impressive :P I had little girls stopping to tell me how much they liked my horse. Thankfully she was polite and contained the fire-breathing-dragon routine to a correct 20m circle. Rode her for a bit after, and she was great!

Saturday she was pretty full of herself, and was unamused with the antics in a low-level eventing warm-up. I've had her in dressage warm-ups, but neither one of us had ever warmed up with kids on bolting ponies and horses recently graduated from the track before! We got it done, she was chill and ready to go, we got into the ring and OMG THE JUDGE IS IN A HOUSE. Apparently random tables, cars etc are fine, but a little house on a cart flanked with cedar trees required some thought. We got around without any major issues. Not one of our more stellar efforts, but no major glitches. We went from getting 4s and 8s to 6s and 7s, so getting some consistency at least! We'd been
having arguments practicing the test since Bria thought I was clearly on crack and couldn't possibly only want a canter 1/2 circle. And apparently there is *always* a canter transition between the letters C and H, regardless of what test we're doing, so getting through the entire test without a big discussion on who knew the test better was huge! And we did NOT get the word "submission" underlined for a change :P

We had a few hours to wait, she she got to go back to her stall for a nap. The picture doesn't quite capture it... it was like a little kid who WANTED to stay awake, but just could quite do it...


She was NOT amused when I went to tack up for the jump round, but perked right up when she realized jump tack was going on.

Went to warm up for jumping, and now we had bolting ponies JUMPING. Dear lord. I have jumped in public exactly twice in my life. Once on Betty (babysitter extrordinaire) and once with Bria at an itty-bitty schooling show. Bria held it together so incredibly well... Eleanor and I couldn't believe just how amazingly well she did considering her age and the fact it was her first really busy show. The only time she took over was when a horse bolted and she promptly removed us from the line of fire (good pony! Ok, so she shouldn't take over. But her motives were good.) :D Unfortunately, I hadn't had a chance to watch a few rides go, and I'm a) green, and b) a visual learner. Uh-oh. A barnmate had held Bria while Eleanor and I walked the course... which had a bending line on it. We haven't done bending lines yet. Remember this.

We get in the ring, and Bria was trotting around with her head up looking at all the pretty coloured fences. Totally tuning me out. Not being spooky or bad, but having a really good look around. I couldn't remember how long we had to circle around so I could get her attention, so I made the mistake of just heading for the first jump. Unfortunately, Bria was still looking at all the pretty jumps, and when we got to the first jump she noticed it about the time she was about to trip over it and therefore slammed on the brakes. We came around to do it again, but by now we were now ripping around with her tail on fire. Crap. We peeled around the course (photos are horrendous, I'm catching her in the mouth over every fence because we kept rushing). At about jump 5 we finally get on the same page, had a fantastic jump #6 came around to do the last 2 (7 and 8). Which were in a straight line. Unfortunately I suddenly remembered that HOLY CRAP THERE WAS A BENDING LINE SOMEWHERE ON THIS COURSE. So I bent. And jumped jump #4 backwards instead of #8 which was directly in front of us. Ooops. The bending line was actually jumps #2 and #3, but it was such a long line and I was so busy looking for anything resembling brakes when we blasted through that it didn't sink in that we'd done it. I glanced right and saw the jump with the pretty #8 sign at the base and said a bad word. Thankfully the judge was a long ways away in a tower!

So I was eliminated. Since I hadn't come off or done anything actually dangerous (the jumps were all 2'3" verticals) I got laughed at by the show chairman and told I could go XC. He was allowed to laugh as he was handing me a beer at the same time. I had a couple of people tell me that had it actually been on the course, it would have been a lovely bending line. Awesome. The bright side of getting E'd in stadium was that I didn't have to worry about time on XC... on a course designed for ponies and horses that go slow. Not a 17hh horse that is 16hh of legs. So Eleanor and walked it again with the strategy of using it as an opportunity to school a "comfortable, forward" pace, instead of trying to find places to dawdle.

Came out this morning, and Bria was totally settled. Alert, but completely chill. I get back to the warm-up with bolting ponies and I don't know if it was the galloping ponies, or the slight difference in tack, or she could hear the horses on course galloping, but she was ready to GO. A bit bouncy, but once she got rolling we had this new "keen but chill" Bria that's shown up a few times now (we LIKE this Bria!). Walked out to the start box, and she's on tiptoes, but still totally paying attention. She'd never seen a startbox before, and had no issue with it. On course, we had a few bobbles over the first couple of fences, and one small slip in the wet grass, but once she got cruising... OMG.... wow. Just wow. The bigger jumps (as in, Entry :D ) looked smaller the longer we rolled along. We trotted a couple of the skinny fences to make sure we didn't dive past, and she came back to me no problem. A couple of spots we had to go for the HUGE half-halt, but for the most part she was cruising on a very light contact!!! Then we swung around the end after jump 11 to get to jump 12... and all I could see was the red flag ON THE LEFT. Um, ok. So we stop for a look while I count fences. Hmmmm. It's still exactly where I thought it should be, and the course was super simple, and the jump number was in the right spot. Ok, whatever. We've already been eliminated so it's not like it matters! Bria happily picks up the canter again, cruises over 12, and then 13, and into the vet box. Trotted out on a loose rein, wasn't even breathing hard. I think they held us for a whole 30sec. Possibly until I started breathing. :D

Then we ambled up the road back to the barn, on a loose rein, past the diesel trucks, porta-potties, and through the campsite. No problem whatsoever. She was still a bit up from XC, and I don't think has EVER seen a tent before, and she couldn't have cared less.

So despite the elimination, we ended up having a SUPER weekend! I haven't seen the pics from XC yet since we had to get out ASAP. I did find out after that the videographer caught my XC even though I hadn't signed up for it (really thought our first full XC course ever was probably not something I really wanted to see), so we'll see if I can get my hands on it now that I know how it ends :P

The best place by the fire...

Woohoo! Congrats to the Canadian Eventing Team for capturing silver at the World Equestrian Games!!! Awesome job!!! All six riders clear on XC, four even in the time allowed. Fantastic.

So I stumbled upon another #fridayflash blog entitled The best place by the fire which has a brilliant title and some good stories on it if you're looking for a read. Mostly though, I really loved was the quote in the header from Jim Henson:

“When people told themselves their past with stories,
explained their present with stories,
and foretold their future with stories,
the best place by the fire was kept for . . .
The Storyteller.”


Just had to share :)

So last week I had a few rides back-to-back that were unbelievably amazing. One dressage, one just goofing around, and one over fences. The world was good. And then I had a ride where I just couldn't get my act together at all. N my awesome little pony saved me! This is a HUGE step up from where we were a month ago that anything between two standards was scary and required a nearly perfect ride to get anywhere near. I was thoroughly unimpressed with my own riding (she shouldn't *have* to save me!) but equally thrilled that she did. Needless to say having that bad a day I wasn't about to risk screwing up all the work we've been doing, so we did something really easy and ended on that.

Well now that was yesterday. Today I had planned to go hacking -- a great low-stress way to reconnect and put the pieces back together. Except when I woke up it was cold and rainy. Boooo. Eventually it dries up and gets a *little* warmer and I feel obligated to go ride my horse. A little trepidacious about it -- I know from experience that when I have a ride like yesterday's it's usually because I've been trying too hard (although for what now I've no idea???) and the only real solution is to go have fun for a few days and then start over, but w/ all the rain xc and hacking were both out.

So I didn't really want to ride at all, but then that's not going to help either. Knowing this, I throw on dressage tack -- figuring that'll stop me from being inclined to jump (I built this new course last week that I'm quite proud of *g* It has some aspects to it that some of the h/j crowd aren't too sure about hahaha but for most it seems to be riding well). So we get out there and she's a little high. Usually she has awesome ground manners but today she didn't want to stand for me to adjust tack or mount which is not entirely normal. W/u and she's technically being very well behaved but tense tense tense. The type where you can feel every muscle under you quivering and you're just sitting up there waiting for an explosion. So I try some stretchy stuff to get her to relax. No go. Somebody had lowered all the jumps to cavelleti size so I let her trot over a few of those to see if it'd help. Nope. Willing enough to go over them, but no stretching and definitely no relaxation. Try the long and low canter thing, usually a favourite of hers... Yeah it was neither long nor low. *sigh* Do some basic lateral work, which usually gets her to focus and settle. Yeah not so much.

But the thing is, through all this, she never once put a foot wrong. She was always genuinely trying to do what I was asking her to do. She was just explosively wired and containing it was not working all that well. Certainly if I ever got on Zel (my last horse :) when she was in that same mood, I'd usually find myself on the ground within the first 15 minutes or so. But Si was really trying. It was just that bend isn't possible when you're so tense your muscles are locked in a straight line, and her trot resembled a sewing machine since she wasn't able to relax enough to stretch her legs.

So I put on my trainer hat and try to figure out what she needs most to be able to relax. Esp given that none of the usual tricks and techniques are working. Does she just need the day off? Well no, cause then she'd go back as tense as she came out; doesn't really fix anything. What she really needs, is to be a horse. To gallop and buck and play and let some of that energy out. Which she can't *really* do in her t/o paddock these days since it's mostly mud. hmmmmm ok. But there's nowhere I can safely gallop her. However, she could gallop herself...

I got a reasonable halt transition, patted her and dismounted -- just like we finish every day. I tied up the stirrups, closed the gates, and took her bridle off. And she stood with me like she always does.

And then I told her she could go... She trotted two or three steps away, looking back over her shoulder as though to ask "really?" Yes, really. And she was gone. Just tearing around the ring around n around n around. Sometimes randomly changing direction. Occasionally stopping for a heartbeat and a half to grab a mouthful of grass and then off again. @ one point I was afraid she was going to jump the fence -- but she would've ended up in a paddock so not tragic. I will admit though I was quite relieved when she changed her mind on that one :)

Tail raised and flying, ears forward. At one point towards the end she did the biggest, floatiest trot I've ever seen her do; I honestly wouldn't've believed she was physically capable of it. Made me wish I'd had my video camera :) Now we have something to aspire to under saddle *g* Although I'm going to have to become a lot more flexible to sit that!

I never chased her. Didn't tell her she had to do anything; didn't try to direct her. Just let her be a horse. And then when she was done, she was just done. Steam rising off her, I took her bridle and she met me half way; stood perfectly quietly while I put it back on.

And then I remounted. What a difference. Now she was forward -- instead of sewing machine I had long, seriously ground-covering strides. Still willing to listen -- her brain didn't get lost in the gallop (always good :), just very forward. Since that's usually what I'm aiming for, it's all good. I didn't work her -- no need. She got what she needed and a workout with it! So I just had her do a nice long stretchy trot with occasional changes of direction until her heartrate came back down (didn't take long - she's pretty fit this ottb of mine :) and her body temp returned to normal.

And in the end, we both got what we needed; she got to run and play and be a horse in a big safe area, and I got to have an easy fun ride and genuinely enjoy my horse. To be followed tomorrow by both of us having a day off. Perfect :) Then we should be good to go again :)