Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sunny Ride

Mother Nature's tease of good weather continues here in the Willamette Valley. Just too nice to ride inside in the covered arena, in spite of its great footing. So I took Phantom outside. We did a "walkabout" on the property before heading to the outdoor arena where we did a little trot work before another walkabout to cool down.

Our outdoor arena is the original arena at the facility. It took a couple of winters for the developer of our boarding stable to get the covered arena built. Covered arenas are needed here in western Oregon primarily because of the rain. Lighting was provided, but after work in the dark and rain...uh, no way. We were all so glad when the covered arena went up giving us the option to ride out of the weather or enjoy the sun. The current owner has installed the greatest footing in our covered arena and it is fantastic. However, our outdoor arena is suffering and high on the list for new footing.

But the gravel doesn't seem to bother Phantom as long as he's shod. I longe him outisde so as not to interfere with training or lessons in the covered arena when weather permits. Today we did a little posting trot work to take advantage of the nice weather. We all know this dry spell won't last long and we'll be trapped in the covered arena for several more months.

It's been years since I've taken a lesson and it shows. My favorite trainer had to return to the "real world" of employment to make ends meet. The trainer presently working out of our barn is very good, but my finances haven't kept up with the cost of living. I have a list of riding "issues" that I need to work on and when I correct my problems Phantom responds well. Regrettably, our "on" moments are farther apart and of shorter duration any more. Definitely pilot error. Phantom isn't perfect, but if I don't fix the problem the responsibility lands in my lap.

I tend to slide over to the right side of the saddle, I get "squidgy" in the middle, my shoulders are uneven and I constantly drop my left hand lower than the right. Oh, and there's the whole pelvis tilt thing and lenght of leg contact. Phantom tends to push me to the right side of the saddle, especially at the canter. He tends to bulge his midsection to the right and tilt his nose to the left -- thus blocking his through movement. There were issues with his canter from day one, often going through a Mixmaster stage before settlling into a real canter. The canter work has improved considerably, but still takes work for both of us to settle into a good place.

*Sigh* It's not like I need to take lessons to compete in dressage. I competed my little mare in open hunter shows and I'm just not that into showing. But I would like to improve my skills and help Phantom do the best he can. Oh well, we'll see how life treats us this year. Maybe I can start taking a lesson once a month or every few months.

In the meantime, we'll enjoy our sunny days and look forward to summer.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fluffy Puppy

So tell me, Sheltie owners, do they ALL run in crazy circles around the house?

My first Sheltie, Lacey, was 13 months old when we met at the Oregon Humane Society. She would race around the apartment like a crazy dog. A blue merle streak. She eventually outgrew her manic races around the apartment, but when turned loose at the nearby high tech campus on a quiet weekend she would round up imaginary sheep.

Indy, my current Sheltie, had just celebrated his first birthday when we joined up. He is very puppyish still and does the same manic "fluffy puppy" race around the furniture. Although the blue merle streak is similar, Indy is much more rambunctious during his silly dashes around the house. this a Sheltie trait? Goofy races around the house and yard? Rounding up imaginary sheep?

Whatever it is, the dog keeps us in stitches. We laugh so hard we cry at his silly antics.

Maybe one of these days Indy will get to meet real sheep. I can hardly wait to see the expression on his face.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just Add Horse

I received a Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue the other day. How I ended up on their mailing list is a topic in itself. Anyway, I was going through the catalogue and stopped in surprise and amusement when I came to page 11.

There was an exercise machine referred to as "The Mechanical Core Muscle Trainer." It was comprised of a seat that greatly resembled an English saddle, with foot rests shaped like stirrups. The text describing the exerciser stated: "This is the low-impact mechanical exerciser that gently and thoroughly concentrates on developing strength in the thigh, back, abdominal, and other core muscles...." It explains the exercise routine as: "...gently tilting back and forth, left and right in preprogrammed sequences...The gentle swaying of the saddle forces the core body muscles to expand and contract, keeping you upright in a relaxed sitting position which helps develop important muscle structure for good posture."

Sounds like riding to me.

But wait, there's more: "The exercise routines also provide a beneficial aerobic workout ideal for those who need to maintain low target heart rates."

Aha! Here it is: "...the slow workout that simulates the gentle motion of riding a horse at a light gait."

The mechanical horse, er, Core Muscle Trainer can be yours for $1,499.95 plus $75 for additional shipping charge.

All the benefits of riding a horse minus trudging out to the muddy pasture to catch your mount, hefting tack to the grooming area, eating hair as you brush your shedding horse, and minus the farrier and vet bills.

To each their own. Personally, I like the soft muzzle frisking me for treats, the sense of oneness when we finally get a connected shoulder-in, the awe of coming face to face with a deer while out on the trail.

I'll take the hay-burner over the Mechanical Muscle Trainer any day. Although I'll have second thoughts on those days when we have horizontal rain.

Monday, February 18, 2008


We just had one of the nicest weekends in months. Dry -- with temperatures near or at 60 degrees. LIke many others, I worked outside to "mutilate" the shrubbery at the back of the house. Today I skipped the barn to continue working on the cuttings to transfer the pile into garbage bags. I can ride in the covered arena if it rains, but I can't (won't) work in the yard when it rains.

So I hope Phantom enjoyed an additional day of recess. I'm sure the horses were snoozing in the warmth of the sun.

A preview of things to come. Mother Nature teases us every so often during our gray, wet winters with a day or two of gorgeous weather. A reminder of why we put up with the rain.

I've been too long away from my book and struggling to get back into it. I'm on the first draft of "Water Tribute" (working title) and just trying to get it all down on paper. I created a stack of notecards with scene ideas to get me through the muddle in the middle. So far it's working. Some folks don't like the limitations of an outline, they claim it stifles creativity. Others go to the other extreme and have outlines nearly as detailed as the first draft. I'm finding that, if I know what I want to occur at critical points of the story, a sketchy outline helps keep me going.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sugar-Coated Research

Since I write young adult (YA) fiction in the science fiction/fantasy (sf/f) genre, I've been reading YA books and taking notes on the fantasy and world-building elements. Right now I'm reading Cornelia Funke.

But I always have a "pleasure read" book to enjoy when not writing or researching. Most recently I finished the newest Dick Francis mystery, "Dead Heat." (I know book titles should be in italics or underlined, but the editing shortcut keys don't seem to work with my Mac.)

I started reading Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Eatth" set in 12th century England. Hmmm. I have in the planning stage a novel with a medieval setting and I've started world building based on the research I've done thus far. BUT...why not take advantage of Follett's research? So I am now taking notes as I read my "pleasure book." I've done this before with other novels.

So -- is it cheating or just being economical?

There's always the problem that author may have gotten it wrong, so then you will too. But, since I'm creating my own worlds, historic accuracy isn't essential. I just (just!) have to create a setting that "seems" logical and realistic to the reader.

I call it "sugar-coated" because I'm reading a good story as well as conducting research. A little less dry than taking notes from a text book.

Yes, folks, I'm old enough that term papers began at the library with real books and real 3x5 notecards.

Anyway, Follett's research into 12th century England is not only confirming some of the research I've already done, but filling in some holes. It's the little details of daily life that can make a novel bloom for the reader. I'm trying.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I'm new to the blogosphere but thought I'd give it a try so I can communicate with friends and folks with similar interests.

I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, not far from the neighborhood where my father grew up. In fact, we both graduated from Jefferson High School 30 years apart. I've lived in various suburbs of the Portland Metro area and currently live south of Portland in the I-5 corridor.

I currently have a 13-year-old purebred Egyptian Arabian gelding (Phantom) and a male Sheltie (Indy) not quite 1-1/2 years old. I ride Phantom dressage, and Indy takes me on twice daily walks.

I have a BA in English from one of Oregon's small liberal arts colleges and, like most English majors, I love to read and write. I'm focusing on young adult fantasy fiction. Fantasy light, actually -- no dragons in my stories.

I'll fill in more details as I go.

Today I saw "Fool's Gold" and enjoyed it. Been on a bit of a movie run after months of not visiting the local multi-plex. Saw "Juno" a couple of weeks ago and loved it. Then saw "27 Dresses." Not of the same caliber as "Juno," but still fun. Thank goodness I long ago got rid of all my bridesmaid dresses!

I'll try to upload a picture or two if I can figure out the secret. There is a bit of a color theme in my life: my horse is gray, my dog is blue merle, and my hair is salt and pepper. Hmmm. But all three of us have brilliant personalities! :-)

Tomorrow is a barn day and looking forward to another day of dry weather.