Thursday, July 24, 2008

Doggone Entertainment

Yesterday Indy got to play with Breeze, his greyhound barn buddy, and Phantom got the day off. Trainer Tracey and I let the dogs run around and got a good laugh out of them. Breeze, of course, is very speedy and as fast as Indy is Breeze is usually right on top of him. Indy has learned to make some quarter horse moves to duck Breeze, but she just a quickly learned to cut across circles or wait for him to come around again.

Last week or so Indy dove under one of the picnic tables after a run, using it like "home base" in a game of tag. Breeze got down on her elbows and squeezed her head under the bench seat, but her butt was still up in the air and she couldn't reach Indy. Yesterday Indy zipped around the picnic table to place it between him and Breeze. They did the comedy routine of going left and right after each other until Indy ducked under the table. He finally flopped there in the shade. Breeze went on a solo run -- a sight to behold even in the relatively small area in which she raced -- with Indy barking to egg her on. Once Breeze stopped to catch her breath, Indy emerged from under the table to play. Hmmm.

In an I-wish-I-had-my-camera moment, Breeze laid down next to Indy in the shade with him under the table and her just outside the table. Ahhhh.

No telling what they'll come up with next. They do it all on their own as we stand back and watch. Our goofy dogs are endlessly entertaining.

As for Phantom. What a guy! I'd placed him in the cross ties and when I saw Breeze was playing loose I ran out to untie Indy from the picnic table where I cable him with a bucket of water (I know he's not underfoot while I'm riding, he has access to shade and water). So Trainer Tracey and I watched the dogs and started chatting and poor Phantom was left standing patiently in the aisle. No complaints from Phantom of any manner. When I went to untie him he gave me a quiet nicker. I let him munch grass in the open area while Tracey and I continued to chat. My big Goober Boy was content and even grazed his way back toward his turnout. Definitely a keeper.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Productive Weekend

I had a productive weekend. Began "Act II" of "Water Tribute" which involves one of the biggest changes I'm making between this draft and the prior version. Even though large portions are already written, it takes time to locate the sections I want to copy and paste from the previous draft, insert them in the current draft, and edit them per the changes I have in mind.

Also had an idea for my most recent off-on-a-tangent story, working title "Plain Susan." So I rewrote the opening. This project is in a 3-ring binder and I'm hand writing it.

"How do you write your novels?" is always a favorite question at the writers conference. As if lined legal pads and number two pencils are the answer to creating a blockbuster novel. Some folks compose with pen and paper, others on the computer, and still others dictate. Then there's J.K. Rowling and her ideas scribbled on a napkin. Of course, once you make the big time you can afford to hire a secretary to transcribe your dictation or handwritten scenes. The rest of us do it all ourselves.

Personally, I always preferred to hand write my first drafts on 3-ring binder paper (narrow ruled if available, college ruled otherwise) with a fine point ballpoint pen. Then I would edit and type up the second draft. Once computers arrived on the work scene, I grew accustomed to composing directly on the computer. I now do that on my iMac, and hand write edits and new scenes that are inserted among the printed pages. All organized in a binder.

But there's something I love about inspiration originating in the mind and flowing down the arm and onto paper via a ballpoint pen.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Working on "Go"

Started my rides this week with "go." Gave Phantom a generous rein and just asked for forward at all three gaits. Of course, he was inverted and "ugly" in the beginning, but after loosening up at all gaits he seemed to come into connection much better. "Go" was a process that Trainer Cathi had all her students work on, the idea being to get the horse moving forward TOWARD the bit before asking for the horse to work INTO the bit. So I went back to the exercise. Kind of confused Phantom, I think. But we figured it out.

Phantom is a fantastic guy in spite of me.

Our initial canter work today was definitely ugly. Canter has always been a problem for Phantom. Watching him on the longe line over the years, I think his preferred method of movement is to crossfire. Only I won't let him counter canter, so he didn't know what to do with his feet early in training. But today after he loosened up I rode a sitting trot and did a few trot/canter transitions with fair success. I say fair, because he tosses his head on the depart of a right lead. He doesn't do this on the left lead depart, but that lead was the most difficult to get and maintain early on. Anyway, after a nice canter I asked for a downward transition and got a wonderful forward and round trot. Only I couldn't sit it! By the time I caught up with Phantom and wasn't interferring with him, the trot was smaller. Still round, but not as large and forward.

So Phantom was giving me lovely work, but I didn't have the skill to keep up with him. He is such a lovely guy, he put up with me and gave me the best he could in spite of my mediocre riding.

My Goober Boy is definitely a keeper.

I hope to connect with Trainer Cathi again. She saved Phantom from me over and over in the past.


Okay, I saw a review of Commandos in "Modern Arabian Horse." They are cotton liners with an adhesive backing that are used like a panty liner...only without the panty. They prevent VPL (visible pany line) when wearing breeches and also help avoid wedgies. You can find out more at

Hmmm. At least with underwear there is an additional layer between the world and my cellulite. I don't know that I'm ready for this product. Nor is the equestrian world ready for me to use this product.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Finished "Act One" of "Water Tribute." One quarter of the way through the novel. Yee ha!

I'm still playing with my new story idea; however, working title "Just Plain Susan." Even a modern day setting requires "world building." And I scribble scenes as they come to me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

That's Another Story

In typical Gemini fashion I'm sidetracked on yet another story idea. After spending time at The Country Classic I started scribbling ideas and draft scenes for a YA fiction story set at a hunter-jumper barn. The protagonist is a working student, the antagonist is a spoiled boarder.

I have additional incomplete stories with H-J settings. One is a murder mystery, the other is a Middle Grade (MG) mystery/fantasy. All are located in the northern Willamette Valley.

The way I bounce from story to story when new ideas pop into my head, it's no wonder I don't finish things.

I thought that when I retired I would have the luxury of spending uninterrupted time on researching, outlining and writing. Ha! Since I'm doing all the driving, when not at the barn I'm chauffeuring my mother to her appointmens and on errands. So my non-barn days are as busy if not busier than the days spent with Phantom. So much for the best laid plans. :-)

So I have the same old problem I've always had...maintaining enthusiasm and the gist of the story when interrupted or falling asleep in front of the computer. At least I've accumulated several systems for orgainizing the flow of the story so it's easier to pick up where I left off...still, after you've been away from one story for awhile, it's easy to be bit by another story idea.

The good news is, I have no problem with ideas for stories. I have a couple of large stories (potential trilogies) that I know I don't yet have the skills for. But I'll keep working at it.

We'll see now which of my stories I'll pitch at the conference in August.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Country Classic

I have to get my hunter jumper fix at least once a year. The Country Classic held in Wilsonville, Oregon, each July is billed as the largest hunter-jumper show on the west coast north of San Diego. It began in 1973 at Inchinnan Farm south of Wilsonville on the beautiful Willamette River, the farm of Sir James McDonald. The jump courses were set up in the sheep pastures, vendors were located beneath the mature trees around the classic white farm house. In 1975 the Portland Opera Association became the beneficiary of proceeds from the show. The Opera Association displayed elaborate costumes used in productions and provided singers for the National Anthem. Following Sir James' death the show was disbanded; however, it was revived in 1998 at Pacific Meadows Farm farther south of Wilsonville near Newberg, Oregon. In 2000 The Country Classic found a new home at Hunter Creek Farm just miles off I-5 at Wilsonville. Current beneficiaries include the Portland Opera Association (again), Forward Stride therapeutic riding program, and Riding for Reading. Hunter Creek straddles Wilsonville Road with a tunnel that connects the east and west portions of the acreage. The house, pool and barns are located east of the road along the Willamette River; while permanent rings and warm-up areas are accessed through the tunnel on the west side of the road. Vendors are situated on both sides of the road, the tack stores located near the hunter and jumper rings, arts and crafts near the grand prix arena, and food on both sides.

I had to spend a little time at the Adult Ammie hunter ring for old time's sake. I could never afford to show at this level, but hunters was a lifelong dream and I eventually got to participate at a modest level. Sorry, but I find the 36+ AA division amusing. These are folks who are new to horses or who returned to horses after decades. Every year I see riders who would never make it around the course if their horse wasn't trained to death. It's more fun to watch hunters if you actually know one or more competitors, since it appears to be the same brown horse with the same rider in a dark hunt coat going around the course over and over again. :-) But I take notes for a mystery novel that I hope to write set in the horse world.

I prefer going to The Country Classic on Saturday when the Speed Derby is held. This is the only competition at Hunter Creek that uses "The Log." Hunter Creek is now owned by Sally Cutler, a long time member of the Oregon hunter-jumper world; but before Sally acquired the place it was developed as a bed and breakfast for horse and rider. In the large field near the main house is a log about four feet in diameter and maybe 20-30 or more feet long. It's landscaped at each end with a jump pole placed atop the log so it is in essence a 4-foot+ jump. During the Speed Derby it is an optional jump...a shortcut to the next fence, provided you clear it. So the goal for spectators is to crowd the bleachers that give a good view of The Log. Most courses are designed so the approach is from east to west, which is a downhill slope. Tricky. Horses tend to speed up and flatten out downhill. So it can be quite thrilling when riders elect to take The Log. This year no horse or rider crashed at The Log, thank goodness. One rider made the error of a tight turn from fence one to two, losing more time struggling with her horse than gained by the shortcut. Several riders opted for a neat angle over fence seven (an oxer) before the right turn to fence eight, The Log or optional vertical. Going for speed with a hot horse turned out to be a mistake. An excellent round on a large chestnut that made the course look easy fell apart when the rider forgot the course and later knocked down a pole or two. The Speed Derby is full of thrills for the educated spectator.

The Country Classic is widely advertised and attracts horse folks and non-horse folks alike. Not all the horse folks are knowledgable about hunter jumpters, and the non-horse families definitely aren't. Eavesdropping on crowd comments can therefore be as entertaining as watching the competitiors. This year most of the people I sat near knew what was going on, so we all recognized a tight angle over an oxer or the "not gonna do it" expression on the horse's face.

Hunter Creek hosts several hunter-jumper shows this summer produced by HAP (Horses and People). Great location in the country for anyone looking for an escape from the city and a chance to see gorgeous and athletic horses.

My favorite scene in "National Velvet" is when Elizabeth Taylor and the Pie arrive at The Grand National and she sniffs the flowers and says, "Horses!" My sentiments exactly when I attend The Country Classic.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bath Day

I'm getting wimpy in my middle age. The temperature edged toward 90 today and I decided against riding. I just don't tolerate the heat as well as I used to (who needs a hot flash in 90+ degrees?!), and I tend to get grumpy when uncomfortably warm -- which isn't at all helpful when riding. So I decided it would be a good day for a bath.

I think Phantom was in full agreement. He stood very patiently in the wash rack (although he's always been good about it) and seemed to enjoy the sudsing and scrubbing. After rinsing and scraping off the excess water I applied Cowboy Magic to mane and tail, spritzed him with fly spray, rubbed sunblock and fly repellant to his face and then let him free graze to dry out. Gosh, his mane and tail are gorgeous when clean. But I banded his mane before returning him to his paddock. Keeps the mane from knotting up and allows the air to reach his neck on these hot days.

Kind of nice to just putter around with one's horse. Phantom has such good ground manners and he appears to appreciate my efforts to make him comfortable. He had a trim and reset on Tuesday, so his feet were looking good, too. A little hoof conditioner and he was good to go.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Early Fireworks

In my half awake-half asleep state, I thought the noise was Indy racing around the house. Then I woke up enough to realize that he was asleep in his crate at 2:30 am and not running around loose. So what was making the noise? I finally woke up completely to realize we had a lightening storm overhead.

I got out of bed to look out the window and caught some of the fireworks display. We don't usually get the huge thunder storms reputed to occur elsewhere in the US, but this storm appeared much more active than our usual storm. However, counting between the flash and thunder indicated the lightening wasn't directly overhead. So I returned to bed. I then considered our most recent thunder storm had let loose a heck of a downpour and the loft windows were wide open. So I got out of bed again to run upstairs to close up things.

No sooner did I return to bed than it started to rain. Awfully heavy and hard rain. Like solid objects larger than our normal hail. I jumped out of bed again to check out the sky lights in the living room. It sounded like the hail was going to come right through them!! I peeked out windows and without my glasses I could tell that the ground was white but couldn't distinguish the size of the hail. Needless to say, I was glad when it stopped.

This morning's walk with Indy revealed the remnants of our unusually strong storm. The ground looked like someone had shaken the trees and showered the ground with leaves. The local news was full of home videos and still photos of last night's fireworks.

Mother Nature is no slouch herself at pyrotechnic displays. Who needs to wait until July 4th for one heck of a show?!