Thursday, September 30, 2010

I think we're all a bit crazed by the rain

I woke up this morning to Keil Bay's extremely loud, very distinct hyena squeal, which he went on to repeat three times before my husband went out to give morning hay and make sure things were all right out there. Everything was fine - my guess is that the pony was being a pest, bored from being in most of the day yesterday and all night, as we have been completely soaked again over the past 24 hours.

Husband came in and discovered that Bear was chewing on the remains of a dead squirrel, Keats the cat had left a puddle on the STOVE, and Dickens E. Wickens had camped out on the sofa all night, which is a big clue that the rain gauge is over the top.  When I walked into the living room, in fact, there were three of our cats sleeping on the sofa, sort of like the last die-hard partiers from an all-nighter. It's one of those mornings when I have to wonder: what went ON in here last night?

We needed the rain, but now we've had it, in excess, so I'm watching the radar and hoping it comes to an end so we can move on to sunshine and a bit of time to dry out.

And now, I'm dreading the next chore - mucking out those stalls. On days like this, when it's still raining and you know they aren't going to go out, the lovely meditative quality of mucking veers into "oh, god, how much more can they poop?" - said as I give more hay, fueling the fire, so to speak.

This is one of those times I come up with ideas like indoor exercise trails, sort of like equine fun houses, where you give them a muzzle-ful of tickets each and send them off to have fun while the chores get finished.

And there goes the Big Bay, squealing again. We may have to bring the pony in the house.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

klimke - and now back to the right way

Klimke at Aachen in 1995 - look at the difference

more from WEG: Kittel and Scandic - SHAMEFUL

The absolute SHAME. I want to know what the ring stewards are doing during all this!

Does this look like how the FEI defines dressage?

The FEI Rules describe the object of Dressage, which means “training” in French, as “the development of the horse into a happy athlete through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with his rider.”

overwhelmed, but this made my day!! Dutch rider eliminated at WEG due to blood in horse's mouth!

Daughter dislocated her finger last night and after a trip to the ER she is now wearing a splint for the week and is of course not able to do her usual chores. I went out this morning, took one look at the stalls that have to be cleaned due to rain and horses being in most of the night, and decided that at 72 degrees and sunny today, they are all proceeding to daytime turn-out, at least as long as this weather holds.

I spread hay all over the back field, checked the water trough, and after their breakfast tubs were done, said "see you later!"

Now I'm back in dealing with some very annoying ants, and basically am ready to bomb the house with ant poison.

It's just one of those days.

But then I took a break to check in on WEG and found this, which really made me happy. Thank you, judges. I applaud your doing your job!!

Photo added, from Dressage-News:

Adelinde Cornelissen eliminated from World Equestrian Games

Sarah Jenkins, H&H reporter at WEG
28 September, 2010
Dutch number two Adelinde Cornelissen is out of WEG after blood was seen in the horse's mouth in the grand prix
Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival, gold medal prospects at the World Games, have been eliminated after blood was seen in the horse's mouth.

Judge at c and head of the ground jury Britain's Stephen Clarke had to ask Adelinde to leave the arena after her halt and rein back on seeing the red in the foam around the horse's mouth.

Speaking to Stephen Clarke at the national championships last month he said that he was honoured to have the responsibility of judging from C, but was dreading something like this happening and having to send a rider out.

Adelinde shrugged her shoulders and patted her horse, dropped her reins and walked out.

Up until that point she was well in the lead, scoring nines for their halt, extended trot and both half passes.

The Dutch still lead the team competition but being down to three riders Edward Gal cannot afford to have a big problem this afternoon on Totilas.

This puts Adelinde out of the individual competition too, and throws open the possibility for our top rider Laura Bechtolsheimer to stand even higher on that podium.

The following photo is (I think) Adelinde during warm-up. Is that Sjef in the background? Big fat clue: if your body is that torqued out of position, what you are doing is WRONG. End of story.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

could be Keil Bay's sister; she's a steal

Oh dear. Someone just sent the ad for this lovely young mare to my email inbox and now I can't stop looking at her.

She's part of an entire Hanoverian breeding farm herd that is going to auction very soon if not sold locally.

If wishes were horses, she'd be mine tomorrow.

sunday morning solo

Husband and daughter have gone to volunteer at a dressage show for the day. Daughter is a score runner for half the day and has taken her camera to look for and capture rollkur the other half. Husband is in charge of awards. Does anyone besides me see the possibilities in this combination of volunteer duties? :)

If she finds any rollkur I am going to do my part and send the photos to the FEI, as well as posting them here. 

Meanwhile, back at the farm, teenaged son is doing what they do well - sleep. I am finishing my coffee and yogurt and then heading out to feed breakfast to horses and donkeys, harrow the front field in advance of the RAIN THAT IS COMING (we badly need it!) and enjoy the much cooler temperature that rolled in overnight.

Guess who is standing outside my window right now keeping me company as I type? The Big Bay. The Big Handsome Bay. Get on out here, he says. Unless you're blogging about how wonderful I am, in which case you can take a few more minutes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

end of the week musings

It feels like this week has flown by. Having the Proust group on Monday evenings kicks things off a little faster for some reason. So far it's a good group, with good discussion and very nice to be reading Proust again, but especially rolling into my favorite season.

We're having a few days of summer again, and yesterday horses got baths. I'm not sure where the weather is going after this week (it's mid-90s today and tomorrow and then 70s for the next 5 days, with some much-needed rain in the forecast) but it occurred to me this could be the last bath of the season. They are all shedding summer coats right now, and Cody and the pony are already growing in winter fur. The donkeys started several weeks ago.

I have Keil Bay on a 3-day on, 2-day off riding schedule, which I've noted in the past seems to work well for him. In our last ride of the 3 days on, we worked mostly at a walk, but did some more difficult work, and he did really well, again. We seem to be getting more finely tuned with the bitless bridle and I've noticed that he is licking and chewing at times even without the bit in his mouth - I was interested to see what he did in his power trot without a bit the day before that. He moved much the same, but I think there is a freedom in his shoulders that is likely due to lack of tension in the head/poll and also probably has something to do with the Thinline pad we're now using.

Keil and I were working diligently at the walk and were quickly joined by Cody and the pony. Cody opened the gate to the arena and in they came. For a few minutes it was me on Keil followed by Cody and Apache Moon. I had to actively discourage them from joining in with us, as it was distracting Keil Bay and I really wanted to get some focused riding in. I find it interesting and wonderful that although it was turn-out time, the gate to the front field was wide open, and both had been ridden earlier, they still wanted to come into the arena.

The day before, daughter rode the pony in the back field and they were joined by two very energetic donkeys.

For a moment it was like a window into a different time: a pony and his girl, trekking along the forest's edge with two trusted and spirited companions.

Funny aside:  People get to this blog a number of ways, mostly via links from other places and by googling horse information, but since I wrote the post about my dream about the Keebler Elf, many numbers of folks are arriving here by googling Keebler Elf. I don't know why this tickles me so much, but it does. I can't imagine what they think when they arrive at my crazy dream post, but many of them go on to read other pages on the blog, so I guess they aren't too put off. It makes me wonder, though - are folks around the world suddenly dreaming about the Keebler Elf???  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fed-Ex your horse!

This is an interesting video about the huge transport of horses from Europe to the USA for the upcoming World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. The process looks fairly benign and I love that someone is actually inside each "box" with the horse at all times.  Of course, I'd want that person to be me if it was one of my horses!

I think the only way I'd ever ship my horses by air is if we moved and needed to transport the entire herd with us. I would probably need to be sedated myself for such an undertaking.

Salina came from Germany so she has flown, and I can't help but wonder if that contributes to her general anxiety when she thinks someone is getting ready to be loaded/transported.

Note to daughter who says she is moving to England when she gets older: could you put the Little Man in one of those box stalls and watch him go up and into the plane? I am not sure I can stand it if you do!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Launch day! Susan Henderson's Up From the Blue

Susan Henderson's debut novel is on sale as of today, and I hope you'll buy it and support a truly generous author who also happens to write beautifully (as noted by the MANY glowing reviews below).  It's what I'll be reading as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Set in 1975 against the backdrop of school busing, desegregation, and early feminism, Up from the Blue follows the story of an imaginative young girl, Tillie Harris, as she struggles to make sense of her mother’s mysterious disappearance and her rapidly deteriorating home life.

Praise for Up from the Blue:

[An] elegant debut… Henderson’s fascinating novel fearlessly examines the complexities of depression, romantic and filial love, and motherhood. Beautiful, funny, sad, and complicated…. —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Rapturous prose…. A triumphant debut. —Library Journal
Henderson shows remarkable compassion in her debut novel… —BookList

Susan Henderson’s UP FROM THE BLUE deftly portrays a family with contradictions we can all relate to—it’s beautiful and maddening, hopeful and condemning, simple, yet like a knot that takes a lifetime to untangle. This is a book that you will love completely, even as it hurts you. It is a heartbreaking, rewarding story that still haunts me. I absolutely loved this book…gushingly, unequivocally, loved it. —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET [Read what Jamie had to say about UP FROM THE BLUE on his blog.]

Susan Henderson masterfully weaves a story where family can both indelibly wound, and yet also redeem. Heartbreaking, compelling—ultimately beautiful. —Samantha Dunn, author of FAITH IN CARLOS GOMEZ

Brilliant! UP FROM THE BLUE felt like a gorgeous gift to my heart. Susan Henderson has a genius for exposing the exquisite flaws and beautiful frailties of her characters with such tenderness the reader can’t help but be uplifted. Yes, it’s that sublime. I fell in love with Tillie, I fell in love with this book. You will, too. —Ellen Meister, author of THE OTHER LIFE and THE SMART ONE

In UP FROM THE BLUE Susan Henderson delivers a compelling, deeply felt tale about the complexities of family life. You’ll fall in love with young Tillie Harris, whose attempts to navigate her parents’ unruly world are portrayed with genuine warmth and tenderness. —Michelle Richmond, New York Times bestselling author of THE YEAR OF FOG

A haunting tale of the terrible ways in which we fail each other; of the whys, the what ifs, and the what nows. This is not a book you’ll soon forget. —Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS

Through her gorgeous, perceptive debut, Susan Henderson reveals the truth–a family’s effort to hide its secrets and shame will break a child’s heart. UP FROM THE BLUE is an unflinching, emotionally honest novel, one of the most insightful stories I’ve ever read. —Ronlyn Domingue, author of THE MERCY OF THIN AIR

A remarkable debut, not just for the uncanny accuracy and charm of eight-year-old Tillie’s narrative voice, but for the way the characters reveal unexpected angles of themselves that make them somehow realer than real. UP FROM THE BLUE lingers in the mind. Susan Henderson shows herself to be a writer of great skill and subtlety. —Mark Childress, author of CRAZY IN ALABAMA and ONE MISSISSIPPI

UP FROM THE BLUE is a beautiful, haunting, spirited debut, charged with secrets and deep longing. Susan Henderson has written a moving love story, a portrait of that deep lasting love between mother and daughter. —Julianna Baggott, author of THE MADAM and WHICH BRINGS ME TO YOU

UP FROM THE BLUE is a heart-wrenching, tender story with a mystery that kept my pulse racing. What a joy to discover Tillie Harris, the most memorable, charming and plucky narrator in fiction since Scout Finch. —Jessica Anya Blau, author of Today Show pick, THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES 

Haunting and unsettling, UP FROM THE BLUE’s real alchemy is the way it uncovers the stories that alternately save us and keep us from our real truths. Incandescently written, this is a stunning debut with heart. —Caroline Leavitt, author of GIRLS IN TROUBLE and PICTURES OF YOU

UP FROM THE BLUE is elegant and engrossing. Like a modern-day Scout, Henderson’s child narrator Tillie Harris is both tender and tough, charming and filled with wonder by the difficulties she must overcome. Henderson is a talent to watch. —Danielle Trussoni, author of ANGELOLOGY and FALLING THROUGH THE EARTH

In this extraordinary first novel, a young girl forced to live within the regimented world of her military father discovers the darkness behind his austere existence. Her secret, nighttime life, spent inside a basement chamber straight out of Jung, conjures the no-man’s-land between madness and sanity. With its authentic and startling imagery, Henderson’s story glimpses the darkness of the heart as well as the rays of light that manage to shine through. —Kim Ponders, author of THE ART OF UNCONTROLLED FLIGHT and THE LAST BLUE MILE

A luminous debut. Henderson explores the emotional tremors of a troubled military family in a story layered with shock, revelation–and hope. —Dylan Landis, author of NORMAL PEOPLE DON’T LIVE LIKE THIS

Susan Henderson makes real the magic and terror of childhood with such vivid uncanny accuracy that I can almost imagine being a child again. She takes readers back into the world of children like no other writer today—without cloying sentimentality, and without the wild hysteria of memoir. Funny, smart, innocent, and wicked, her narrator is one of the most memorable voices to show up in fiction in ages. —Jim Daniels, Pushcart and Brittingham Prize winner, and author of NO PETS, DETROIT TALES, PLACES/EVERYONE, PUNCHING OUT M-80, BLESSING THIS HOUSE, BLUE JESUS, NIGHT WITH DRIVE-BY SHOOTING STARS, LETTERS TO AMERICA: CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POETRY ON RACE

UP FROM THE BLUE is a bejeweled tale of mother and daughter, longing and understanding, all ripe with the antics of a brilliantly imagined girl named Tillie. Dark and sweet like a wild cherry Lifesaver, Henderson’s prose makes our hearts pucker, while enchanting our minds long after the story is done. —Amy Wallen, Los Angeles Times bestselling author of MOONPIES AND MOVIE STARS
Tillie Harris, Susan Henderson’s courageous young heroine, is vibrant and true. Her voice fills the pages of UP FROM THE BLUE with a bittersweet song of innocence and longing as she navigates her way through her perilous life—a life dominated by her mother’s desperate unhappiness and her father’s frustrations. I wanted to hold Tillie tight then release her with a smile, so I could watch her set the world on fire with her hard-won wisdom and sparkling energy. —Laura Benedict, author of ISABELLA MOON and CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS

UP FROM THE BLUE is a rare literary page-turner full of shocking discoveries and twists. Susan Henderson has created a remarkable narrator – as memorable for her feistiness as for her tenderness. UP FROM THE BLUE is going to be one of this year’s major debuts. —Josh Kilmer-Purcell, NY Times bestselling author of I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS and THE BUCOLIC PLAGUE
Here, finally, is a contemporary writer willing to embrace the pathos, the ache, the hunger of human life in fiction that’s luminous and moving and transformative. In the character of Tillie, Susan Henderson pursues the shadows of childhood without allowing herself to be obliterated by the potential, there, for darkness; her fictional creations are beautifully flawed and hence gorgeously human. For me, Susan Henderson is one of the most important writers to come along since Carson McCullers. Like McCullers, she turns her eye upon the sadness, the poignancy, and the grotesqueries of our world, evokes them with a keen and unswerving vision that is tempered only by understanding and love. A remarkable writer…and a brilliant one. —Terri Brown-Davidson, assistant editor at Zoetrope: All-Story and author of MARIE, MARIE, HOLD ON TIGHT

Using perfect prose as a weapon, Sue Henderson’s UP FROM THE BLUE burrows into you, so that if you put the book down, you will soon feel compelled to pick it back up, and when you have read the final word, you realize that you will carry this story with you for the foreseeable future. —John Warner, editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

I would love to be able to talk about Susan Henderson’s book, UP FROM THE BLUE, without using the word “awesome.” But the truth is, I can’t do it. I’m in awe of the big-hearted love of a daughter for her mother. I’m in awe of the all-too-human Tillie with her brilliant imperfections, with her truth-telling, with her outrageous simplicity. I’m in awe of the breadth and scope of this book. I’m in awe of how Susan Henderson makes it seem as if there’s nothing small in the world. I know you’ll agree. UP FROM THE BLUE is no less than awesome. —Terry Bain, O. Henry award-winner and author of YOU ARE A DOG: LIFE THROUGH THE EYES OF MAN’S BEST FRIEND

Susan Henderson deftly conjures that surreal kingdom known as childhood, a realm teeming with tactile mysteries, hourly epiphanies and ineffable longing. Tillie is as brave and winning a narrator as we could wish for, caught in a painful intimacy with her disturbed mother, but also embarking on the necessary adventure of defiance. UP FROM THE BLUE is a wonderful book, always evocative and often funny, fashioned with a delicate touch and a riddler’s humor. —M. Allen Cunningham, author of THE GREEN AGE OF ASHER WITHEROW

Susan Henderson writes with the sort of honesty, clarity, and attention to detail that makes you forget for a moment that you are reading fiction or even reading at all. It is a sign of the greatest level of art: to erase the artifice that separates the reader from the experience. The stories in this book do this with admirable skill, creating a world of vivid sadness and beauty. —Grant Bailie, author of CLOUD 8
In luminous, economical prose, Susan Henderson tells the story of Tillie, a lonely child in a family of loners, doing her best to please her high-ranking Pentagon scientist father, her literary, unstable mother and her scornful older brother, all of whom have secrets she wants only to understand. She grows before our eyes in deft, layered chapters that are at once painful and funny. Neglected and demanded too much of, eager to please and rebellious in equal measure, Tillie embodies the very spirit of late twentieth-century America, and we can’t help but love her. Indeed, Henderson’s greatest gift to the reader—and there are many— is the evidence that love, though it surely does not conquer all, makes forgiveness possible and hope inevitable. —Maryanne Stahl, author of FORGIVE THE MOON and THE OPPOSITE SHORE

Monday, September 20, 2010

first real day of autumn!!

Okay, it's tomorrow, but I have another post that needs to go up tomorrow so I'm celebrating the equinox here on camera-obscura today.

We have some color change going on in the landscape, and we have a nice breeze, and we are definitely experiencing an earlier sunset.  I am so ready for this shift. It's my favorite season anyway, but this year I'm especially ready for it.

I went out to ride today and it felt so much like fall I got drawn into a ritual I'd forgotten about - giving Keil Bay his "sport cut." I started out in the stall but didn't latch his stall door, so most of the trimming was done in the grass paddock, where I snipped and let his mane hair fly in the breeze. There's a trail of black mane out there right now - and he looks very young and very sporty.

By the time I groomed, trimmed mane and tail, etc., it was no longer morning! But this is what I love about fall - it was still fine to ride!

Today's ride was a bit different. Keil was still forward but we've settled down a little bit into our routine, so I decided to focus on our "straightness" and making more precise turns. To do this we shifted inward to the quarter line so there was no using the rail as the outside guideline. It took about one full circuit to get it right and then we did more in both directions to practice. I'm still focusing on equally weighting the stirrups, keeping the reins equal and still unless I'm specifically using one as an aid, and releasing my pelvic joints.

Keil responds really well to this, and after we had fully warmed up at the walk, doing some more shoulder-in (which Keil is very good at and which really stretches out his stiff side in a good way) we did some work walking, then almost trotting, then walking. And then did walk/trot/walk transitions around the arena in both directions. This needed almost no work - Keil is being very responsive and other than one downward transition when he kind of took off with me at the trot (at this point in my riding life I'd much rather have this issue than slugging from walk to trot!) it was lovely.

We're working on half-halts with the bitless bridle. It's a little harder because with the bit all I have to do is tighten my outside fingers, but that subtle an aid doesn't seem to translate without the bit. Once Keil gets more tuned in to the seat aid for that I think we'll be good.

The big thing that we did today was some very nice solid working trot. Not a lot yet but he offered it and I took it. He has a "power mode" that kicks in when he's ridden well and warmed up well, and I have learned that it's not really something you can (or should, imo) try to demand from him. If you put in the warm-up and focus on riding well, he shifts into this gear himself.

He has a lovely light trot that he offers too, but this trot is seriously big and you can feel the power underneath. I was really happy to feel it when we moved into the final bit of the ride - it's sort of like cruise control and truly fun to ride (wasn't fun when I first got Keil because it felt so powerful it was a bit scary).

It occurred to me today as we powered around the arena and he started getting very big and bold - I no longer get nervous and try to slow him down. I circle, or incorporate a pattern that helps me feel secure, but I am fine with the power mode. It has taken awhile for this to be true - there was a period of time when I was okay riding the power mode, but I often stopped it as a way of managing it - now we could go all day long (well, psychologically I could - my legs are still not strong enough after the summer off to actually go all day!)

So... first day of autumn and the Big Bay takes us into high gear. Happy equinox a day early! I hope everyone has forward motion and blue skies.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

another good ride and a thank you to PETA

Everyone on November Hill is still feeling pretty spunky. The pony almost always feels spunky and is always up for anything anyone might have to share when it comes to food. Note his lip reaching, neck reaching, ears forward... he knows how to cozy up to the Big Bay. The next frame would be him taking that dangling bit of grass.

And Keil Bay would let him because Keil Bay is a benevolent king. 

Yesterday I had another good ride. We started off very 'up' - walked off from the mounting barrel in what I call "big walk" and did a nice spook in place at the red lawn mower monster that was parked in our back field. The monster is of course not at all scary when it's sitting in the paddock or the barnyard, as you can see by the seat, which has equine teeth marks all over it!

But we have to keep in practice and we have to have something fun to funnel all this autumn energy into, so we did one nice spook and then proceeded on our way. A little while later a small herd of deer trotted by the arena, and this elicited a very big look, the idea of a spook (or possibly joining the herd of deer into the forest) but I decided to ask that we simply carry on, and Keil listened.

Otherwise, we had some very nice shoulder-in, some nice trotting, and a couple of strides of spontaneous passage, which for whatever reason Keil loves to do going right as we pass C and get to M. Sometimes I say no and other times I let him go for it.

We hit the place where I asked for leg yield and got trot - Keil's way of avoiding what he doesn't want to do, and isn't he brilliant to offer the thing he knows I love most - his big trot?  His going forward instead of sideways gives us a chance to work on half halts and I realized that one hip felt slightly higher than the other as we transitioned down from trot - I'm betting the pelvis joint is rotated which means Keil needs chiro, but he isn't doing the other signals he usually gives so it's probably fairly mild. I'm feeling good about being able to feel these things from the saddle now.

We ended the ride with a small battle with a dive-bombing horsefly, who met an untimely death upon landing on Keil's mane. Keil stopped, I smacked, the fly fell, and we decided that was as good a time as any to call it a day.

After the ride I had a small cup of alfalfa pellets waiting on the picnic table so I could treat Keil while I untacked and sponged him down. Keil Bay loves being in the barnyard, so I let him stay while I got ready for a client session.

I spent the rest of the evening (this was an evening ride, today) in the barnyard, watching the moon rise while other magical things happened. Life is good. Life with horses is spectacular!

A note of thanks to PETA:

I know there is a fair amount of joking and no small amount of derision floating about that is directed at PETA. I was a member of the organization many years ago but lately don't always agree with their stance on everything, or their methods. However, this recent news story compels me to say thank you to them. A research laboratory in NC was closed down due to PETA's video-recording employees abusing animals. Because of PETA's work, over 200 animals have now been rescued and are in the process of being cared for, assessed, and released for adoption to loving homes.

I'm not a fan of using animals in research. Much of the testing done is ridiculous. Why does anyone need to know if something like laundry detergent damages a rabbit's eyes? When it comes to using animals for medical research, I consider it an ethical issue. If it's unethical to test using humans, why would we do it to animals, whose entire lives are then lived in cages and whose experience of the world is one of at least some amount of pain and suffering?

To use animals in research, where they are already giving up healthy normal lives, and then allow them to be abused by the staff is simply hideous. Anyone captured on the video abusing an animal should not only be fired but prosecuted.  Thanks to PETA this particular lab is no longer in business. And these animals can experience a different kind of life.

Thank you, to the people who did the videotaping. Keep up the good and important work.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'm counting today as my first day of autumn...

For the past two days I've tried to get out to the barn early so I could ride in the cooler morning air, feed, get chores done, and get back in by mid-day. It took two days of revving my engine before I actually managed to shift my gears into this new routine, but it was SO worth it.

We're all waking up this week. The long hot summer is moving on, and everyone at November Hill is feeling the effects of that.

Keil Bay is a "morning person." He likes to do his work in the a.m. so the rest of his day is free and clear. He's always preferred that, but depending on schedules and the weather I've not always been able to accommodate his preference.

We've had a slow summer riding-wise. The rides I did were mostly bareback and not very much work for either of us. Two days ago I hauled my saddle from bedroom to barn, got things organized in the tack room, and finally, today, we got back in the groove.

Keil loves to be groomed in his stall where he can look out the window while I'm brushing. Today I wanted our return to work to be extremely pleasant, so I took the brushes in, along with a small handful of alfalfa pellets. I've been grooming daily again, and doing some ground and in-hand work, for about two weeks, and with the heat in decline and no need for hosing, added to us having no rain, getting him clean is a snap.

I put his Thinline sheepskin pad on, then saddled him up. I like to do the girth a notch at a time, so I got it just snug enough to stay put if he turned around in the stall, and then got more pellets and the stirrups. Girth up a notch on each side. More pellets and my helmet and whip. Girth up a notch. More pellets and bridle. And we were ready to go.

I decided today that instead of trying to force my leg higher than it wants to go (and given the fact that my left pelvis has been rotating out again) I would put the mounting block by the barrel in the arena, use the block to get on the barrel, and then simply lift my leg over Keil's back and sit straight down. Keil never had issues with mounting until I forgot to tighten the girth one ride about a year ago and the saddle slipped completely underneath him when I went to get on. Needless to say, I got even more finicky about mounting after that happened, and I have made him finicky as well. If I go ahead and mount without fretting, he's fine. But the moment I hesitate he steps away. So today daughter rewarded him with (yes, more!) alfalfa pellets as I stepped up onto the barrel and got on. Hopefully we can turn this into our regular routine and as he realizes I'm no longer hesitating, he can stand quietly the way he always has.

I had decided we were going to do lots of walking today, watching for trouble spots and fixing those quietly. Immediately it felt like there were steering issues. I had the bitless on him and probably didn't have it snug enough, but that didn't really seem "it." I felt like I was using too much leg, too frequently, and then realized that every time I used a leg aid I was taking the weight out of the stirrup, so that the other leg was by default being weighted - and that this was throwing everything out of whack.

Sometimes the solution is so simple we almost don't find it. Today I was thankfully aware of the domino effect I was creating and stopped it by focusing on just one thing - keeping my weight even in the stirrups. Suddenly everything got much sharper. And as we got more in sync and I was quieter in the saddle, Keil clearly wanted to trot. So we trotted on. He immediately went into his big, swinging trot that is so smooth it makes absolutely no sense to post - I just kept focusing on keeping my feet evenly weighted and keeping my hands soft and still. And he woke up - all the way. By taking care of my issues, I took the brakes off him.

Keil Bay is big and powerful and when he wakes up all the way it's both exhilarating and a bit intimidating to me if I've not been riding regularly. But after last week's big buck, the groaning sound he was making as he turned to the left, my heel pain, and the feeling that both of us were suddenly seeming as old as our combined ages, I was so happy today to feel his energy, and mine, that I let go of the idea that I might not be ready for it.

We did more trotting, and some pas de deux with daughter and pony. Keil was so in front of my leg that even the thought of asking for trot was enough. He was big and bold and very interested in forward motion.

Cody had already been ridden but he was so intrigued with the energy in the arena he opened the gate and came in - he couldn't quite figure out how to join the pas de deux so he stood at X and watched as we continued.

I was happy to have Cody visiting, but hoping things didn't get out of hand. A few days ago daughter captured these photos of the pony during one particularly intense "play" session:

To wind things down, we went for a turn through the back field - and Keil Bay was so up and ready to go he did a little jig and tossed his head in the bridle! He would have loved a long hack through the woods, and if we had such a trail available to us, I'd have taken him there and tried my best to keep up with him!

He was looking a bit like this:

Instead, we headed back through the paddock to the arena and finished the ride. Keil knew breakfast was coming, so life was good anyway, even without a hack!

My favorite photo from the play session though, I've saved for last. Apache Moon loves this movement and would probably be incredibly easy to teach if we wanted him to do it on command:

Leaping forward to fall!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

mountains, horses, Proust

On Friday my writing group partner came by and we headed west to the mountains for the weekend. It's been a couple of years since I've been, so I was completely thrilled with the opportunity to visit a new little mountain town. We took the parkway for a good portion of the drive and as usual, the winding road, the sound of rushing water, and the exposed rock faces immediately put me into a creative space. (I once wrote an entire section of novel while driving in the mountains with all the windows down, pulling over at every turn-around to write in longhand in my notebook, fast, as I tried to keep up with the story that came pouring out)

We stayed in a nice lodge/inn:

and while D. went to her book festival I was able to edit and read and listen to the rain on Saturday while alternating between room and porch. It was truly lovely to have that uninterrupted span of time. Sunday we took a longer but much more scenic route home and saw several beautiful waterfalls:

It was wonderful having a break and wonderful to come back home to horses and the entire family. And now that I've got a handle on this heel pain, and temps are generally good in the mornings (we're still getting into the 90s some days) I think it's time to step back into the stirrups and enjoy some forward motion on the Big Bay.

The horses are all waking up after the summer heat. And I haven't forgotten the promised photos, but since I wasn't the one who took them, I have to wait patiently until they get sent to me! They are worth it, I think!

Last night I went to the first meeting of my Proust group. I read Proust in my mid-twenties, by myself, and when I learned that one of my favorite local writer/editors was putting together a group to read the entire work of Proust over the course of a year, I couldn't wait to sign up. We have 8 members, will meet weekly to talk about the pages we've read, and are encouraged to turn in our own work for feedback (a real treat, since Judy is a gifted editor). One member is reading Proust in French (!) and the rest of us are reading the new Lydia Davis translation, which I'm loving already.

From this week's reading:

A sleeping man holds in a circle around him the sequence of the hours, the order of the years and worlds.

Reading Proust is like watching our butterfly bush this time of year. There are so many flowers, pockets of sunshine and shadow, and butterfly wings moving all over the bush, coming, going, lighting, as though the bush itself is blooming with life, and one thing leads you to another thing, and before long you've been pulled into a sort of enchantment that takes you outside time.

The world expands from the moment into every direction and back again.

When I first read Proust my life was very different than it is now, and I'm eager to experience reading him at 50, from the perspective of being a mother to teens and living in the company of all these incredible animals.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

a beautiful early autumn day on the hill

Yesterday was just about perfect - a nice cool breeze blowing, blue sky, horses were happy. Daughter rode Cody and Apache Moon, and I did some in-hand work with Keil Bay after breakfast. He was so happy being in 'work' he refused to come out of the arena when we were done!

We had a bit of drama when the hay tent blew up in the air, flipped, and landed in the arena - Keil Bay went from A to X in about 1.2 seconds - but then things settled down again and everyone continued to enjoy the day. Two donkeys were racing around the barnyard, with Dickens supervising, and I came in feeling like we have actually made it through this long hot summer.

In the evening, my daughter went out and opened up the arena for interested equines to play while she took photos. It was quite the scene out there - and I will be adding photos here later to show some of the action. It's amazing how one day they all just seem to wake up and GO.

I love this time of year.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Fundraiser for Courtney King-Dye - raffling off a FOAL?

The following email has come through my inbox twice in the past couple of days, and I'm curious if anyone other than me feels this is grossly inappropriate.

I totally support the effort to assist a rider who has had an accident and huge medical bills as a result - especially since she was not wearing a helmet and has now become the impetus behind increased helmet awareness for all riders, regardless of the level of experience or the context of the ride. I have not followed this story closely but am assuming that she is endorsing the use of helmets and using her position and her accident to educate the many young riders (and older ones, too) about what can happen in a moment's time on the back of a horse - and how a family can be devastated by the expense of resulting medical treatment and rehab.

That said, I find myself shocked that anyone thinks that raffling off not even a fully grown trained horse (which I would still find shocking) but a FOAL is in any way appropriate.

I do not see living creatures as being "prizes" to be raffled like vacation weekends or inanimate objects. It greatly disturbs and saddens me to think that this is the way horses have come to be viewed. Whether as a vehicle to blue ribbons, trophies, or the prize for a winning raffle ticket, this view of these animals, in my opinion, demeans and dishonors them.

I sincerely hope that the folks responsible for this rethink the raffle and choose something different to offer for the winning ticket.

We have been fortunate to have been blessed with many friends that have helped us over the years. We are now trying to "pay it forward" To that end:

As many of you know, on March 3, 2010 dressage rider, Courtney King-Dye fell from a horse and suffered a traumatic head injury. The injury resulted in severe brain trauma and Courtney was in a coma for several weeks following the accident. Courtney has defied the odds and has not only regained consciousness, she is making miraculous progress and recently has even ridden a horse as part of her therapy. However, the costs associated with her medical care and rehabilitation are devastatingly high.

The Oklahoma Dressage Society and Avalon Equine have joined forces in an effort to raise funds to assist one of their own! To that end, Avalon Equine is donating the 2010 Oldenburg colt, Adieu d'Avalon (Aloha x Morticia/Mannhattan) to a fund raiser where tickets will be sold for the chance to win the colt. Adieu is a striking chestnut colt out of one of Avalon Equine's best mares. Avalon will cover all costs associated with Adieu's care, inspection and registration until the winning ticket holder is announced. The proceeds will be donated to the Courtney King-Dye Trust to assist in covering the extraordinary costs associated with her medical care and rehabilitation.

Raffle tickets are $5.00 each or 25 for $100.00. You can go here: to purchase raffle tickets.

If you do not wish to win the foal, but wish to help, go ahead and buy a raffle ticket. We will be drawing a "runner-up" in case the winner isn't able to take the foal. Additionally, we will offer continued support and assistance to whomever wins the foal and of course, to be able to offer updates on how the foal and his new owner are progressing!

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!
Kathy St.Martin, LLC


Avalon Equine

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Anky drops lawsuit against Astrid Appels?

In case you haven't heard, Anky has apparently dropped the lawsuit against journalist Astrid Appels.  No links yet, but have seen this on Twitter and Facebook with a badly mangled "auto" translation from the Dutch which implies that she is dropping the suit for "privacy reasons."

While I'm glad that Astrid doesn't have to deal with this ridiculous suit, I'm disappointed not to see the legal system address some of the associated issues.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

quite the day here on November Hill

Bear bonked his eye late last night which required remedies and monitoring and then Kyra's ear got red and itchy and gunky and required cleaning and more remedies.

Rafer Johnson let himself into the back field and then Redford pitched a fit, followed by Keil Bay giving me his "you let THEM do anything they want" and so I opened up the entire farm to all of them this evening.

Salina lost track of where the donkeys were and started trotting up and down the paddock, whinnying wildly and whirling around at each end so fast I couldn't get her stopped to show her that they had not disappeared but were in back with the geldings.

About the time I got the donkeys to actually show their faces and relieve her anxiety, Rafer decided to let himself into the barnyard to the one place she couldn't follow and he HID in the hay tent!

Finally they're all fed and out and hopefully will enjoy the temperature dropping into the low 50s tonight. I just came in and discovered that someone is getting to the blog by searching for "Apache Moon Festival" and I'm thinking - did that pony go and set up some big party without letting me know???

I would not be surprised at anything this crew pulls today.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

today's magical moment: the spider version of a double rainbow!

I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but this morning I noticed there were two spiders and two webs that were about 4 inches apart, like a double rainbow, spider style.

There is a lovely cool breeze today and as I stood there photographing, the webs blew in sync, then touched, stuck for a few moments, unstuck, blew in sync again, and the process continued.

I have never seen such a configuration of two webs this complex. It made me want to sing.


This evening I had another chiro appointment and a massage, and when I left the office near sunset, which was quite intense and gorgeous, I noted a few drops of rain falling on the windshield and turned to my left. There was an amazingly clear and pristine double rainbow which seemed to begin just behind the chiro office and extended across the county to end right where November Hill is.

I drove toward home, curving to change roads, and suddenly was facing the double rainbow. Just as it seemed I would drive right beneath its double arch, I switched the radio and the Eagles sang, "it might be raining, but there's a rainbow above you."

By then nothing would have surprised me in this domino of synchronicity, but along the final stretch to home, three deer leaped from the forest to the road's edge, stopped, then bounded across, looking almost exactly like the November Hill Press logo.

It has been a magical day.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

middle of the week catch-up

Busy week here on November Hill. I finally went to the chiropractor yesterday and discovered that what I suspected was true - my left pelvis joint was rotated out. She put it back and I felt like I was going to float away when I stood up and felt the absence of tightness and the twinging of what I call the "rusty hinge" sensation. I completely understand why the Big Bay stands licking and chewing when he gets his chiro work done. It's incredible.

I'm going back tomorrow for an additional adjustment and a massage.

Otherwise, we have had a blip of heat this week and today was equine bath day. I think they all enjoyed getting soaped up and rinsed off again, and I feel better knowing they're not feeling sweaty and sticky. Although we have had an increase in temperatures, it feels like fall. On the weekend we're having lows in the 50s! Keil Bay was doing his big beautiful trot around the barnyard today, which made me want to go grab saddle and bridle and tack him up for a ride. If we can get back to the 80s next week and if these insanely aggressive horse flies will leave, we'll be ready to get back to work.

At least two family members are heading to the beach this weekend, so I'll be here keeping the herd happy and hopefully will sneak some writing time in. I can't believe it's already September - but on the other hand, what took it so long?

(and... let's all send Earl out to sea - thinking good thoughts for all the folks we know living on/near the east coast and hoping they get good waves and nothing more than a nice breeze)