Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August and everything after

Pie on our goldenrod ride yesterday.  

Much thought recently about the different ways I ride depending on who I am riding. A summer of quiet rides without too many incidents on anyone has left me reflecting on what works with all three boys. One common theme is my need to act like I am on a rental horse, but keep my lessons and knowledge close by if needed.  In other words, I ride like an actress- a professional liar. I try to be relaxed, as if I have zero clue about what could happen. Remember the very first time you rented a horse and you didn't know about a shy or a bolt? You were free of any hesitation, anticipation, worry. That is how I have been riding lately. Of course, deep down, where hopefully my horse won't know, I try to stay focused about what to do if I need to react. This trick really has made my outings better than ever. My mother has been calling my rides on Pie, our most difficult boy, "pony rides" because that is how they appear.  He has been wonderful. Sovey and Foggy have been too. I think of it like walking over hot coals and smiling. Yes, my seat is relaxed.  Yes, my reins look long. It is all good and calm and easy.  And, if there is a blow-up, I am secretly ready to sit tight, inch the reins up through my fingers, (grab mane!) and focus on riding well.

I am reminded of a scene in Room with a View when Cecil tells his mother how he thinks he and Lucy should raise children:

"Mother, I shall have our children educated just like Lucy. Bring them up among honest country folk for freshness, send them to Italy for...subtlety. And not till then bring them to London." 

Of course, only Daniel Day-Lewis can say it in the way Forster intended, but I've been thinking of that scene as it applies to riding.  The reason Cecil is so impressed with Lucy is because she isn't just one dimensional - she isn't all London and society or all Italy and culture or all Summer Street and country.  Her strength lies in the combination of the education/environment.  Riding my boys has shown me that I do better to combine tactics.  Keep the experience and knowledge close by, but ride like I am oblivious about what could happen.

Let's just hope I am so frivolous with my courage and proclamations when the winds of autumn pick up.  It sure was chilly this morning!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

But still the days seem the same

Today was Maizie's first day back at school.  There was a chill in the air this morning when I walked her to the bus stop (6:55 a.m. - ugh!) and the wind was steady all day.  It felt like fall.  Even last evening, when Maizie, Brian, and I played our last tennis of "summer" and the boys grazed in the pasture nearby, the shadows were long and golden.  

I was very sad to see her go back after our spectacular summer, but happy that I have three horsey boys to comfort me all day! I am able to be at the barn from 7am - 2pm now.  How great is that? I was able to ride most days this summer, but it just feels less rushed now.

Pie and I headed out on a big adventure this morning - insert my hysterical foreshadowing photoshopped photo, above!  I did have a saddle on him (thankfully).  He has been livelier than usual so I opted for the saddle on Monday and today.  

Pie picks up bad mounting habits during the bareback (barstool) summer, so I worked with him today on the mount.  He has a tendency to get nervous and turn his hind quarters away from me. When I make a second attempt he is even more nervous which is obvious by his rein grabbing and teeth chomping.  Today I decided in the barn that we would go out to our mounting area and just stand around.  When I could stand beside him without him being nervous, I clicked my tongue and gave him a treat.  Then I stood back near the saddle and repeated the click/treat.  Next, I moved to the block, and finally I got the perfect, quiet stand I was after.  This happened last year too and I was defeated, but now I am so much better able to handle these little setbacks.  I  let go of the idea of whatever it was that I was planning to do, and realize that this is what we are doing. So, today, I breathed out and decided that I could care less if I rode. Pie and I were going to practice the mount.  And, when he caught on so fast, I decided not to redo it and just stayed on him.  I said thank you and gave him a "jackpot" and many "good boys".  We have tomorrow and everyday after that to practice.  I used to get off and redo a couple of times which just made him think that I didn't like the first effort.  Today, I was on so we walked on and he snorted a release.  Good boy.

After a great blustery ride through the woods and fields, Pie and I returned to the farmhouse and barn area.  We had to pass one of our three luscious apple trees with their siren songs calling the weak and rotund Pie-Pie.  He has historically been known to plaster his ears and buck if I urge him forward without stopping. This is obviously unacceptable. I always allow the horses to graze at the trees if I am on the ground so I want Pie to learn to move through the apple-dappled grass and back to the barn without a hesitation if I am riding.  Today and Monday he moved through perfectly!  Good boy, again.

Right before we got to the driveway, we heard a helicopter hovering in the distance.  I turned Pie so he could see it better.  We were out near the road and the helicopter started coming toward us and descending!  Pie was standing with his head high and his heart was beating through his whole body.  I didn't want to dismount because I am lousy at leading him when he is scared. For a split second I thought of my dear blogging friend, Once Upon an Equine and her ordeal with sweet Marley and the helicopter. Then, I tried to relax and empty my brain.  It worked, unbelievably.  Pie stood there and watched the helicopter fly back and forth over the power lines (checking for damage after yesterday's earthquake?) and behind the trees.  How this horse got to be so good, I will never know.  He was superb!

Next, I rode Sovereign bareback in the wind - I'll save that (long-winded) story for another time!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pie says, "MOO!" and gets his 15 minutes

This adorable photo of Pie with a MOO sticker on his nose was featured in the MOO Blog today!  MOO, my new favorite printing company, is holding a City Stickers competition and I thought Pie might not mind participating!

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon MOO when looking for new calling cards. (The above link is to their US site, but if you are in the UK - To Catch A Pony - you'll want to click here.) Even though she is a fictional character, I blame Holly Golightly for my calling card addiction. I design and distribute new ones incessantly. Finding the right paper weight and brilliant color is quite a feat. (I am picky!) Too many nights I sit and google "business cards" only to discover sub-par offerings. I ordered a sample pack from MOO and was knocked out by the quality.

The very next morning after I found MOO, they offered free stickers to the first 1000 etsians who responded!  I was in my usual horse vs. art freak-out-mode. I wanted my stickers to be perfect, but I also wanted to go and ride and I didn't have time to get all my photos together in photoshop.  So, I went to the barn and missed out. Then, the next morning, they offered the same deal to the first 500 people. Oh!  Twice in a row!

What an old school fool I was.  If I had just started uploading my photos, I would have found out that MOO does everything for you! I didn't need to resize or color correct. It is tough to let go and trust when you are used to making sure everything is perfect in photoshop first.  

AND...the very best part is that they print business cards, postcards, and their unique mini cards with different images on each card!!!!  It is like carrying all my paintings and my entire blog in my pocket. Below are two of the 50 (!) different images ($21.99) I ordered as calling cards.   

Of course, Pie didn't care one straw about MOO and how great they are as printers.  He just wanted me to get that sticker off his face and let him get back to gobbling apples!