Monday, June 30, 2008

Dog Day Afternoon

So we had record-breaking high temperatures in the Willamette Valley on Saturday (102 in Aurora) -- and where were we? At the regional dog agility championships at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds. It was HOT and we stayed only an hour or so. Fortunately, I witnessed the owners employing many methods to keep their dogs cool. From hosing down to cooling vests...and plenty of water available.

Per usual the dogs were a blast to watch. Some were new to agility and had their own agenda. Others were so intent on owner and course it was amazing. When the dogs petered out mid course because of the heat, the owners signaled they were finished and gave their dogs plenty of love on the way out of the ring. Per usual, the border collies were intense. We have soft spots for Jack Russells and Shelties so we particularly enjoyed watching them compete. Although...I could do a Welsh corgie any day. I don't know how the little silky terrier and papillion made the teeter move, they were so tiny. And I saw the smallest Sheltie I think I've ever seen. Makes Indy look like Goliath.

It's tempting to look into agility training for Indy, but I already have a horse I'm not training, I'm a "full time" chauffeur, I'm writing a novel, and I'm way behind in yard work. Do I need anything else on my agenda? Plus...I was a little concerned by the plethora of knee braces I noted the human competitors were sporting. Hmmmm.


Who knew? Indy loves ice cubes!! I had occasion to wrestle ice cubes from the tray some months ago and one fell on the floor. Indy grabbed it and crunched it until consumed. Okaaaay. Now we have our hotsy totsy new fridge with the water and ice dispenser in the door. We are making full use of it, and every time we fill a glass with ice, Indy comes running. We now have a plastic spoon handy just to scoop out a chunk of ice from the glass for Indy. Some times he plays with the ice, and other times he gets distracted, but he will chomp up the ice every time.

How do we end up with fur people that are such characters?!


Elected not to ride today. Still muggy and very smoggy. Smoke from lightening fires in the Cascades drifting into the valley. I just didn't have the gumption.

So Phantom got a dusty zoom groom (*cough*), I re-banded his mane to keep it untangled and off his neck, hosed him off, and applied fly spray and hoof conditioner. No complaints from him. He seems to know I'm trying to make him more comfortable in the heat and appreciates my efforts. Whatta guy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Working Title

Back to work on my YA desert adventure story. My "elevator pitch" (you know, you step onto the elevator with Steven Spielberg and have until the next floor to sell your idea) describes it as "Patty Hearst meets Lawrence of Arabia." You may have to be a Baby Boomer to get the references. I'll hope the agents and editors at the writing conference grasp the concept.

Anyway...I'm back to chapter one and slimming down the existing draft. And I'm implementing a technique that I've considered in the past. I am "journaling" the personal thoughts of each main character in the scene. I'm hoping this will make the writing better represent the "voice" of the characters and more vividly convey their thoughts through their actions.

The main character is Jezhene, the 16-year-old daughter of a powerful Water Lord of the Nezhadd Desert, a setting that resembles Oregon's high desert. Jezhene is good at heart, she's just lived a spoiled and pampered life in a palace where water flows freely in reflecting pools and fountains. She is only days away from leaving for her wedding when her prescribed life takes a detour. Jezhene has a few lessons to learn in the desert and, by the end of the adventure, she is less self-absorbed and has a new respect for the desert and the nomadic Badawi that roam it.

The story, of course, includes beautiful desert horses.

It would be nice to have a new draft nearly completed by the Willamette Writers Conference. But since the agents and editors generally ask for only the first three chapters, I'll try to make sure those are fairly polished by August 1.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Like Velvet

The arena finally dried out enough for remedial work and Arena Guy Mark of Efficient Arena worked on it yesterday and finished today. Seems the base had broken down at each end and when we had an onslaught of rain, the water pooled instead of running off. Various culprits were singled out for blame: Tatankaa (aka The Tonk) for his Quarter horse/Arabian two-step stomp, and Tumay, our beautifully dappled "big girl." The truth is, we're all to blame for our heavy use of the covered arena.

My timing was perfect and I arrived at the barn just as work was completed. I stared at the laser-leveled, perfectly dampened arena and thought: "Omigod, I don't want to be the first one to ride in the new arena!" So I tacked up Phantom and longed in the outdoor arena (more about it later) with the intention of a short ride outside. Owner Susan came by just as I was winding up the longe line and told me to go for it, so I did.

Am I the only one who worries about leaving a trail of egg-shaped "circles" and wavering tracks down the center line in a freshly dragged arena as evidence of my equestrian shortcomings? Seemed like it took forever for Phantom to work through his Arab Anxiety at the walk. But we eventually worked our way up to posting trot, canter, and sitting trot...using my patterns of down the long side and up the middle, 10 meter circles within a 20 meter circle, and spiral circles.

The refurbished arena was like riding on velvet. Soft but not too lofty, no soggy spots, and level. Talk about smooooth! I eventually got a "beach ball" round and connected trot out of Phantom, and the evidence I left behind in the arena wasn't bad. The circles actually looked pretty round. The "new" arena was a real treat.

The outdoor arena is the original riding area at the facility and was all we had for the first year or so. It's gravel and rigged with lights. Summer in the Willamette Valley can last into September and even as late as mid-October. But when the rains come, it's just plain gray and wet. Riding outside after dark was quite the trick. We would disappear into and reappear out of the fog during a lesson with Trainer Cathi, or take a quick ride between rain showers and splash back into the barn to untack and scurry home. Since the covered arena was completed, the outdoor arena has been neglected. The base gravel has worked its way to the top, and the grass is encroaching. Owner Susan is plotting how she can pay for refurbishing the outdoor arena, since it would save wear and tear on the covered arena if we could longe and ride more outside. It will happen somehow. We'll put our heads together and come up with a plan. was a delight to "dip a hoof" into the newly refurbished arena.

Monday, June 9, 2008



Back in the saddle again after miscellaneous interruptions in my schedule. Actually, I think Phantom's vacation was well timed after his massage. He seems much more relaxed and moving more freely. MIriah's work wasn't undone by me leaping back into the saddle right away.

Only rode for 35 minutes today but ended with some nice stuff. Phantom is such a good boy in spite of me.


Finished my rewritten first chapter of "Water Tribute." I tend to rush through scenes, almost like blocking them out. So I tried to slow down and fill in more sensory descriptions. I may try out the first few chapters on my First Readers to see if I'm on the right track.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mane Event, Part 2

Larger photo. More mane.

Mane Event

My very clean and bright white Arabian after his first bath of the season.

When Phantom and I joined up he was only three and his mane had never been touched, other than the loooong bridle path typical of non-sport horse Arabian showing. I put up with his long locks for a year or two by braiding mane and tail to prevent dreadlocks, then decided "the heck with it" and lopped off his mane with scissors. Trainer Cathi took some fabulous photos prior to the Attack of the Scissors. I call my favorite picture from that shoot Phantom's GQ cover know, "Geldings Quarterly!"

Anyway, after a few years of scissors and thinning shears, I decided to let Phantom's mane grow again. This time I acquired a neck cover to attach to his turnouts for the worst of the winter weather. As his mane grew I returned to braiding the half that poked out from the neck cover when he grazed. During our brief and record-breaking spell of hot weather in May I decided to comb out his mane and tail and give the roots a good sudsing. Lo and behold, his mane is as long as it was before I sheared it off!!

So here's my handsome guy in all his glory.

Instead of braids I'm banding his mane to prevent knots and to allow air to circulate. Not a problem during the return of our winter rains, but it will be cooler come summer. And I'm sure the Willamette Valley with have summer weather...sometime...soon?

Thursday, June 5, 2008


You thought I was referring to the horse!

Indy has been part of the family for eight months and I just figured out that he paces! Since I generally walk him with a Flexi leash, he's usually out in front of me so my view is that of his Sheltie "pantaloons" and fluffy tail. He has a kind of rolling gait and it didn't sink in until recently that he sometimes paces and sometimes trots. No rhyme or reason. He just picks up one or the other gait.

Apparently AKC considers the pace inappropriate. Oops! Oh well, I love my fluffy puppy the way he is.

Speaking of whom...he seems to have outgrown Lacey's old harnesses and I had to go out and buy him a new one. Royal purple. Since our Flexi leash is red, Indy has by default become a Linfield College dog. Go, wildcats!!