Friday, November 30, 2012

What's Harley been Up To

Oooh.. about 15.1, 15.2... *giggle*  sorry, sorry...

Seriously.  Harley lately has been:

  • Brief leg yields at trot
  • Learning to lift his front end a lot more.  This has sacrificed nice "bend at the poll", but since it appears this is "success" locally at Training Level, I'm trying to work through it
  • Long & Low trot, for longer than a stride or two.  It's a slow process.  Some days, he really gets it.  Other days, pure disaster.
  • Quiet trot and canter in hunt saddle, including two point.  His canter isn't quite there.  He doesn't race off, he doesn't get stupid.  He brakes gait to a trot, sometimes the walk.  Kid thinks he's going to lose me, and I admire that.
  • Trot poles, varying heights.  Total success.  The more difficult I make it, the better he is. 
  • Cross rails, trot, varying heights.  From tiny low to significant, he's not had refusals or tried to swing around them.
  • Canter poles - fail.  Epic fail.  I think it's the two-point hesitation, along with general "well, I know I can trot these, so let's try that"
Around the barn
  • Brief trailer loading problem has been resolved.  Yesterday I loaded and unloaded him twice, just to test. 
  • Plastic bags.  He sniffs to them rather than runs away.
  • Trotting in-hand.  Finally got this!
  • Understanding a popping "move your feet" whip to a "desensitizing".  We're getting there.
Trail Walking down the road
  • Chickens?  No problem
  • Oncoming traffic?  No problem
  • Barking dogs?  No problem
  • Deer?  As long as they move slowly and don't spring out of the bushes, we're good. :)
We have one more show this year.  Next Sunday, AHHf.  Going to ride out Training 1 again, and add Prix Caprilli.  I believe my Intro C days are complete.  They served the purpose.  Unfortunately, it does appear that Intro C allows all that "long neck, low headset" , while Training discourages it.  He's getting confused, and so am I.

I'll post tonight on Mo.  I owe a new picture of his leg, and an update of our vet appointment yesterday afternoon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

More Than You Probably Wanted to Know, the horses

biggest mistake of my life
things would've been very different if you weren't here
I never got to do what I wanted to because of you
you'll never succeed in life if you keep that up
you got yourself into that mess. we're not helping you, so don't even ask
you've had your chance at freedom, now I want mine
God's punishing me for having you
I hate this house. Too many terrible memories in it.

Where do the horses fit into all of this?   I don't have some miracle story, where I sat down in the saddle on a school horse, and "realized I have purpose in life", or had a show ride on Ransom/Harley where I came to terms with who I am.  It's not nearly that pretty, or fairy tale -esque.  Just isn't.

Instead, it's a sensation.  A feeling.  Work can suck, my parents can fight, I can feel lower than the crap that hides under a cowboy's shoe.  Something on the job, or personally, can go wrong, and I can feel that if only I'd done ___ or not done ___, it would've all been right.

Then I go outside, and put a saddle on the horse.  Walk to the arena, and mount up.  I can control the ambitions of a 1000# four legged flight animal with the urge of my seat.  I tip my pelvis under me, and he walks on.  I shift my weight, and he will canter off in a fury.  I can channel that energy up in the air in a leap, and with a heavy sigh, come to a complete stop anywhere I choose.  Does this always work exactly like I want?  No way.  More often than not though, I can control my horse much better than I can control my life.  When I feel out of control everywhere else, they ground me and center me.  They give me the feeling of authority and power, even when I'm mid-air looking for the softest dirt patch to land. 

This is my effort to explain who I am, where I've been, and only small pieces of what makes me this way.  I'm incredibly opinionated, and often isolate myself from every other human I see.  I chose retreat over defend nearly every time.  And I still have to "shut off those old tapes" often, to remind myself more of the kitchen table, and less of the insults/defeat/lectures/physical scars.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More Than You Probably Wanted to Know, Pt 4

biggest mistake of my life
things would've been very different if you weren't here
I never got to do what I wanted to because of you
you'll never succeed in life if you keep that up
you got yourself into that mess. we're not helping you, so don't even ask
you've had your chance at freedom, now I want mine
God's punishing me for having you 
I hate this house. Too many terrible memories in it. 

Fast forward to now.  I have a lot of days where I can shake loose of all that crap.  I can ignore it, I can look around my little "island", and see how I have ended successfully, if this is even the ending. 

I have a decent home.  I am making all my bills on time.  I have a good job, and I'm good at it.  I've come to terms with who I am, and frequently make jokes at my own expense.  I'm a chemist, not a psychologist or an educator.  I don't claim to be the life of the party.  I'm incredibly naive, and I don't pretend to be "experienced". 

Recently, I learned that last statement.  My parentals are moving.  The house itself stirs up miserable memories, and the neighbors aren't good enough.  A "for sale" sign lurks in the front yard.  Even if I wanted to go home, there won't be a home to go to.  Their new chosen location is farther away, and more difficult to visit.

I'm indifferent over the whole thing.  I can't imagine the interior without a screaming fight, or the sting of getting slapped, again.   But lurking in that house, is a recovery from surgery.  A moment with God that shaped my life.  Post-surgery, 1991.  I sat at the kitchen table, fighting off another headache.  And it was then I realized.. I was spared.  I was saved for some spectacular purpose.  Some purpose my 12-year old head couldn't grasp, but it was out there.  I wasn't punished because I needed the surgery, and it wasn't some punishment like my mother claimed.  Her life wasn't being punished by my illness, and neither was I.  I was changed in the surgery.  A voice that was mine was replaced.  I was spared, and healed, quicker than predicted by anyone with a medical degree.  And even though she said my pain was so she could suffer, it just wasn't true. 

That house holds that moment for me.  Now, I will need to hold it in my head, that kitchen table in the dim light.  The puzzle pieces I was trying to connect.  The realization I had at that moment I could have been dead, and I wasn't. 

More Than You Probably Wanted to Know, Pt 3

biggest mistake of my life
things would've been very different if you weren't here
I never got to do what I wanted to because of you
you got yourself into that mess. we're not helping you, so don't even ask
you've had your chance at freedom, now I want mine
God's punishing me for having you
you'll never succeed in life if you keep that up
I hate this house. Too many terrible memories in it. 

He explained that "his life would've been so different without me in it".  He "gave up the chances at doing what he wanted, when he wanted, all because of me".  It was the same childhood argument I'd heard so many times.

I lashed out, again.  "No way I'm at fault.  I didn't make me, and I refuse to take responsibility for that action.  If you're going, don't let the door hit you on the @ss on the way out.  Go, and I hope it's worth it."

It was, apparently, but not for long.  I endured the screaming phone calls, from both ends of the family, for about six months.  My grandfather passed away, and my father removed the last of his belongings from the home, all in the few days I went home to mourn.  I lost everything, in just a couple days.  I returned to TX, and I hid.  I didn't take calls from either of them for a few days.  I couldn't handle it.  I was being blamed for what they thought they had to do.  I was half way across the country, living on my own, taking sole care of myself, and I was still "to blame". 

On the way to choir one night, I took a call.  Once again, I was the useless daughter who doesn't care about anyone other than herself.  I wasn't calling, I wasn't checking.  She could be dead, and I wouldn't know.  It's all my fault for not being there for her.  I bet my response was shocking. 

"Remember before I came here?  You made it very clear I was on my own, it was my mess, and I'm cleaning it up alone?  This might not be a mess, but it's not my fault.  I didn't make me.  I didn't get married, and I sure didn't stay married.  I'm here.  If you want to move here, you'll need to get a job and carry your weight.  I refuse to add your cats to my household.  I already have the maximum in annual vet bills I can sustain.  You will have to work to support them, and keep the lights and A/C on.  It's your choice.  However, you won't continue to blame me."

A few years later, they're now co-habitating again.  I guess things are better.  I try to stay out of it.  There's an old saying, somewhere, about beds and lying.  We all know it, but nobody wants to say it aloud to the affected parties.  They made more decisions lately, and I'm here, half a world away, left to understand and adjust.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More Than You Probably Wanted to Know, Pt 2

biggest mistake of my life
things would've been very different if you weren't here
I never got to do what I wanted to because of you
you'll never succeed in life if you keep that up
you got yourself into that mess. we're not helping you, so don't even ask
you've had your chance at freedom, now I want mine
God's punishing me for having you

I hate this house. Too many terrible memories in it

My mother has a way of saying exactly what came to mind the instant she thought of it.   It's something she passed on to me, and then attacks me every time it happens in her presence.  Thus #4 on the list.  She'd holler and yell, I'd speak my mind, usually get slapped across the face for it, and then she'd bark out that, or something like it.  I remember the day I went to the bus stop, and my friend H asked "what's that mark on your face?"  I reached up, and realized it was blood.  My mother held my face so hard in her fingernailed hands, she broke the skin, in multiple places. 

So when I called home, and explained I was suddenly unemployed, her answer shouldn't have surprised me.  She left me without any kind of answers, other than isolation.  I spent the entire next day preparing for a colonoscopy, a test that determined "stress" was causing my digestive problems.  "Just let go of the stress in your life, and it should go away."  Not a problem, now that I don't have a job to go to.

I ran food and waited tables at a restaurant for a while.  The interviews began rolling in.  I landed here in TX after folding a US map in half, and praying for the "right half".  My home town falls right in the middle of the country, at least on that map.  So here I am.  No one "helped me" here.  My father came to my SC home and loaded a few of my items that the employers' mover didn't take.  He drove here, unloaded those things into a motel room, and left the next day.  "I offered to do more, but your mother wouldn't let me."  I remarked, "The ONE time I asked for support.  I didn't ask for money, remember?  I didn't ask for bills to be paid.  I just asked for some help finding a new job.  Did that all on my own, too." 

Now, I live too far away to visit.  And, it's too hot here, too d#mn hot.  Or, there just isn't enough vacation time to miss work or a paycheck, so my holiday trips home, I was alone more than I had company.  

One day, travelling with the trailer (and Chewie) for a riding lesson, my father called.  Seemed he'd had enough of being a responsible married adult.  He'd decided he wanted time alone.  His reasons, brought me to tears, and another confrontation.

More Than You Probably Wanted to Know, Pt 1

biggest mistake of my life
things would've been very different if you weren't here
I never got to do what I wanted to because of you
you got yourself into that mess.  we're not helping you, so don't even ask
you've had your chance at freedom, now I want mine
God's punishing me for having you
you'll never succeed in life if you keep that up
I hate this house.  Too many terrible memories in it. 

Welcome to my childhood.  It's no wonder I have seriously grumpy, depressed spans of time, now, isn't it?  See, most folks have an image of my life... The cute, perfect childhood.  The small family, small house.  Nice school, second home, decent mid-sized cars, one child who must be spoiled rotten since she's an only child.  Fancy college, and grad school.  Yeah, she must be spoiled rotten to afford that.  And look how far she moved from home.  Yup, got to be spoiled rotten.

Growing up, every parental argument, and there were many, someone would storm off in a vehicle, and tug me along.  I'd hear about how horrid the other parental was, and usually one of those first three statements would pop into the conversation.  Some form of, "it's your fault as the child because you're here.  Not because you said or did the wrong thing, but you exist".

It took 20 years before I stood up to that.  Parentals were fighting, yet again.  I had good grades in college, I was working multiple part time jobs, cleaned the house, washed the laundry, cooked the meals.  All for the whole family of three, not just myself.  I was in my room, hiding from the shouting.  My mother went outside to clean the pond, and I could hear things hitting the ground as she threw equipment around.  I went out to help, hoping if I offered a lending hand, nothing else would be broken, and there might be peace. 

She shouted at me.  "Just leave me the H&ll alone!  I wouldn't be in this mess if it weren't for you!"

I lost it.  "I didn't create me!  Your egg, his sperm, created me!  I am NOT to blame for your marriage.  YOU chose to get pregnant, and married soon after."  She asked me to lower my voice.  I refused.  "You two have been screaming my entire life.  It's MY turn to let the neighbors know that I am not responsible."

She went back inside, asking my father "to control his child", as they both closed every window, hoping to contain my emotion.   I shouted more.  "I am BOTH your child, not just one or the other.  I have cleaned, cooked, washed YOUR underwear.  All the while working on and off campus.  And getting damn good grades, in case you forgot what last semester looked like, or what every exam looks like that I set on the kitchen table.  NO more blaming me, NO more shouting at me, NO more holding ME responsible for your sex and your choices.  That's iT!"

I took off.  I left the house, got in my car, and drove.  Nearly an hour, and I ended up less than 2 miles from the house on campus.  I was sitting on one of the building staircases, begging God for answers.  "If I'm not to blame for their misery, then why do they continue to say it?  Aren't my grades good enough?  Don't I cook good food?  Aren't I cleaning the toilet every week?  Am I not hanging up his shirts fast enough?  If I moved out, would it change?"   When I returned home, I spoke to no one.  I continued with my own routine for at least two days, only caring for myself and my own needs, while attending school and work.  I spoke to everyone on campus and at my job, like nothing had happened.

I moved away when it came time for graduate school.  My undergrad advisor said to me, "You can get into grad school on your grades, and they'll pay for all of it.  You're that smart you can get a full scholarship, including living expenses."  I applied, and prayed.  It was *just* far enough that nobody in my bloodline could get to me without a phone call first.  6 hours' drive, one way.  Worse in the winter.  A full 24 month program.  Accepted, and moved, I settled into my own independent life.

I only cooked for one.  I only cleaned for one.  I only had three loads of laundry at the public laundromat after a week or two.  I made friends.  I bonded with people.  I explored a form of religion that was unlike what I was used to.  I discovered my faith was stronger than I thought.  I confronted a church elder before his sexual harassment got out of hand.  It got close, and I still struggle with that. 

I ended up working in South Carolina for two years after school.  That ended abruptly, two months after the building was complete on a brand new house built just for me.  I was faced with two months' severance pay, no health insurance, a mortgage, car payment, and utilities.  I was terrified.

I'll never forget what was said when I called home with the news.

Friday, November 16, 2012

11-11-12 AHHf Training 1

11-11-12 All Heart Horse Farm
Marilyn Kulifay, Judge
Score 58.542%

1 A Enter working trot
X Halt, Salute Proceed working trot
6.0 halt on three tracks

2 C Track left
E Circle left 20m
6.0 needs a little more prep before C; circle – round horse, a little braced in rein

3 A Circle left 20m, developing left lead canter second half of circle
AFB Working canter
3.5 difficulties in canter, loses it, picks up wrong lead twice

4 B-E Half circle left 20m
5.5 should come closer to B for half circle

Here, she drew a picture of a half circle. I don’t know if this was sarcasm, or what, but not needed…

5 Between E & K Working trot
6.0 needs prep and balance

6 A Circle left 20m rising trot, allowing the horse to stretch forward and downward
Before A, shorten the reins
A Working trot
5.0 horse needs to stretch down much more

7 Between A & F Medium walk
6.0 needs prep

8 FXH Free walk
H-C Medium walk
6.0 shows some over stride, needs to stretch down much more

9 C Working trot
6.0 a bit braced

10 B Circle right 20m
6.0 horse loses balance a little at E

I’m sorry, can I have that in true real Speakie-Englishie, please?

11 A Circle right 20m, developing right lead canter second half of circle
AKE Working canter
5.5 Early

12 E-B Half circle right 20m
6.0 needs to be more supple
From folks watching outside the arena, “The second half of his last canter looked awesome! Good job!”

13 Between B & F Working trot
6.0 needs prep and balance

14 A Down centerline
X Halt, Salute
6.5 almost straight

GAITS (freedom and regularity) 6.5
IMPULSION (desire to move forward, elasticity of the steps, suppleness of the back, engagement of the hindquarters) 6.5
SUBMISSION (attention and confidence, lightness and ease of movements, acceptance of the bridle, lightness of the forehand) 6.0
RIDER'S position and seat 6.0
RIDER'S correct and effective use of the aids 6.0
HARMONY between rider and horse 6.0

Attractive pair! Use preparation before movements to help horse perform better.

I know the second canter here was early.  Why?  Because after his first canter-disaster in this test, I was determined to keep him IN the gait, and keep him moving.  I held it coming down the long side as long as I could, coming down to trot just about at F. 

Big picture, I wonder about what she might have wanted at the free walk.  He sure felt stretched to me, but not "nose in the dirt", because he usually trips and stumbles when he gets that long.  Win some, lose some. 

It does tickle me that his Intro C score was the highest out of all Intro competitors.  I wasn't "happy go lucky" about the test, and knowing it was the best score... well... again, win some, lose some.

11-11-12 AHHf, Intro C

11-11-12 All Heart Horse Farm
Marilyn Kulifay, Judge
Intro C
Score 62.500%

1. A to X Enter working trot rising. Halt through medium walk. Salute - Proceed working trot rising.
6.5 Straight Halt; Drifting left after X

2. C Track right working trot rising.
6.5 needs a little more energy

It’s worth mentioning that right here, going into the circle @B, the judge blew her little “you screwed up whistle”. I rode up to her, asked “What’d I do?” She then realized she wasn’t reading the right test, wasn’t paying attention, or something. She laughed, apologized, “I thought that circle was supposed to be somewhere else. You can go back to the circle @B”. I laughed back, and hid my frustration.

3. B Circle right 20 meters.
6.5 circle needs to be a little more round

4. A Circle right 20 meters developing working canter in first quarter of the circle, right lead.
Before A working trot rising
6.0 a little early. Should go to A, then pick up canter

5. (Transition in & out of canter)
6.5 fairly smooth

You know something’s wrong when you get a 6.5 on “fairly smooth”, right?

6. K-X-M Change rein, working trot rising.
6.5 fairly straight. Needs to stretch over the top line

That’s odd. I don’t see “Stretch down” anywhere in the diagonal trot requirements…

7. E Circle left 20 meters.
6.5 circle to be rounder

8. A Circle left 20 meters developing working canter in first quarter of the circle, left lead.
Before A Working trot rising.
6.0 wait until after A to pick up canter

9. (Transition in & out of canter)
6.0 needs prep and balance

10. Between F & B Medium walk.
7.0 fairly smooth

See, here it got a 7. Real consistent, eh? *sarcasm off*

11. B-H Free walk.
H Medium walk.
6.5 shows overstride. Ask for more stretch down

12. Between C & M Working trot rising to A.
6.0 a little fussy in bridle

13. A – G Working trot rising; Down centerline. Halt through medium walk. Salute.
5.0 straight on centerline. Halts at X rather than G

Darn me. I couldn’t hear the caller in the wind, and I flat out forgot it was G rather than X. oh well.
Collective Marks
Gaits (freedom and regularity). 6.5
Impulsion (desire to move forward with suppleness of the back and steady tempo). 6.5
Submission (acceptance of steady contact attention and confidence). 6.0
Rider’s position (keeping in balance with horse). 6.5
Rider’s effectiveness of aids (correct bend and preparation of transitions). 6.0
Geometry and accuracy (correct size and shape of circles and turns). 6.0

Attractive pair! Encourage horse to stretch over topline more. Wait until after A to pick up canter (circle starts at A, so 1st quarter is after A)

I respectfully disagree, but without video, I only know what I remember riding it. I thought I picked up canter on that corner, well after A. In fact, I thought I was late in the second canter, since we were fighting the wind. Ah well…

Monday, November 12, 2012

11-11-12 AHHf Show ReCap

It was one windy gusty day.  Lots of gusty wind.  Jen and I arrived with Harley in good time, after a late start.  Harley has recently decided he doesn't like to load on the trailer.  A problem for which I have no good assignable cause, but I'm working to fix it. 

He warmed up great on the line, with one hissy fit (metal stall door clanging open and closed).  As he moved into the wind, I could see him flinch and flip his ears.  He was almost cringing into the breeze, which was cute and funny.

I'll post the tests and score remarks soon, but here's the skinny...

Intro C 62.5% 1st place, AA High Point, and HDS Intro Medal
Training 1 58.54% 2nd place

Harley not only fought the wind, but three high-energy stallions that also trailered to the showgrounds.  They were a little, uh, stallion-ie.  Noisy and high HIGH energy.  Did I mention high energy?  :) 

A well done day.  He was more relaxed than he has been, and wasn't fighting the bit contact near like the last show.  I was happy that I've learned the secret to a good test ride - walking the warm up.  I got nearly dizzy walking him around in circles.  It was nice.  I barely cantered his warm up, and didn't trot an awful lot, either.  I actually didn't test his canter until right before the test, in the show arena.  thank you, stallions Instead, it was lots of walking and bending and bending and walking and bending and walking and walking and.. you get the idea. 

After we were all done riding, Jen and I stuck around long enough to watch a few Prix Caprilli 1 test rides.  NOW they make much more sense, and will be on my agenda for things to try later. 

The scores yesterday qualify us for Championships in Intro, but not yet in training.  So close!  0.5% more and we would've been in.  darn it!  One more good solid AHHf chance to qualify yet in early December.  Much to work on until then - you'll see why in the scores and my remarks to go with them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Despite the crash, Things are well

Romeo is healing up nicely from his skin infection, and the tendon looks terrific.  I suspect another week or two of healing skin time, and I should be able to get him back in for the ultrasound.  He's behaving in his stall, and I'm beginning to scour the world for some serious support boots for his rehab riding when that time comes.  I've always kept "light support" in the boot department, wanting to keep riding horse sound enough without the support, so they can compete without increased injury risk.  I always figured if they always went in boots or polo wraps, and they were ultra supportive, when you went into the show ring without them, there was an increased risk of injury.  Now, I need to find some super-support for Mo's legs. 

Last week, I had a wonderfully sweet conversation with Jamie at SmartPak.  She was calling to check on his progress, see how the SmartFlex Rehab was working out, and develop a plan of action on his treatment. :)  Very nice, and very considerate, those SmartPak people are.

Harley has made great strides... Pun intended.  I had Jen over last Thursday (yes, same day as splat), and she gave us a few suggestions of ways to increase the energy of his trot.  Harley has pretty much quit fighting the bit again, so I moved back to the french link from the Myler combo (#1).  He argues at the start, but is settling into work and relaxed form pretty quickly.  I should say... it's funny.  I was used to a 30+ min longing warm up ... Harley?  Ten minutes TOPS and I'm aboard riding him.

Received the tragic news that on Oct 30, 2012, Skys Blue Boy passed away from euthanization after a founder incident.  We lost a true quality stallion when Blue galloped on.  Harley and I will keep on riding in his memory, and try to live up to his standards. 

Clinton Anderson gone wrong

I have gotten into the habit of flexing Harley left and right at the start of his ride, somewhere in the middle, and again at the end.  Harley, likewise, has gotten into the habit of trying to nibble at my feet, stirrups, saddle, or his shoulder, scratching an itch.

This went tragically wrong last Thursday evening.  I was preparing to pop him in the nose with my boot for biting, when his mouth met my stirrup.  With his lower lip tangled over the stirrup, he couldn't break free from it. 

He reacted, and started to fight the stirrup's grip.  I went down, and so did he.  In his "going down", he also broke the saddle.  Yup, I just had that saddle checked the previous Friday by the Scottish saddle fitters.  A broken girth strap.  I have to drive northwest of Houston this coming Friday to get that resolved.

Since then, I've had one ride in the endurance saddle, and one in the jump seat (the fitters flocked it up nicely, now it actually fits him).  Endurance saddle canter brought a tense pony, Harley not remembering what that felt like.  Hunt saddle?  Well, after our initial ride in it, he's been super mellow. 

As in "taking advantage of me having a new body position where my butt isn't as plugged-in" mellow.  Having to relearn my body position, and find a way to get him up IN the canter without vocal kiss sound.

Perhaps tonight I will set down some trot poles and trot up over the X-rail a few times, get his mind off my wonky position.  We're set to compete this Sunday at AHHf again, Intro C and Training 1. 

What I have noticed, in flexing him,.... ironically enough, his mouth has stayed closed since the accident. 
Neither horse nor rider were seriously injured in the making of this incident.  Harley had a warm shoulder and neck, while I have two bruised knees that are healing.