Monday, March 30, 2009

Vet Day

Open wide.

It was vaccination and dental work day for several of our horses...Phantom included. So we had several horses doing the "drunken sailor" walk back to their stalls following their session with the vet.

Phantom's mouth was in pretty good shape. He's had an annual dental visit for the past 2-3 years. I've been using my income tax refund to cover the bill, which works out well for the spring visit.

Abigail, our favorite cocker, was at the barn this morning, so Indy and she had some play time. Both puppies had a blast.

The good news was, Bay's ringworm is gone and he can leave the "leper colony" (round pen) to rejoin his pasture pals.

Genevieve popped in to wave hello to Zorro. She was looking much more chipper today since last week's close encounter with Zorro's foot. While tending his abscessed hoof, the pair experienced a gravity issue that resulted in his foot impacting her head. Eighteen stitches later.... The good news is, the stitches come out tomorrow.

You aren't a true horse person unless you've had something broken, stitched or relocated by a horse. Honestly, you've got to have SOMETHING to discuss when the horse folks start talking "war wounds."

I hung around the barn after Phantom returned to his stall just to make sure he emerged from his stupor in good shape. When I wasn't catching up on news, I managed to add a couple of paragraphs to "Wizard."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Provide pizza and they will come.

Today was our annual clean-up day at the barn. Over the past 2-3 years we've hosted the Purina Horse Owners Workshop for the local feed store. In preparation for hosting workshop attendees, the barn bunch gave the little barn and arena barn the once over. This year, Wilco is conducting the HOW in their big, new store. Owner Susan decided that we should give the barn the once over anyway.

So...with the offer of free food, the barn bunch showed up en masse.

Kudos to all, but a special tip of the cowboy hat to Mick who scaled a ladder to give the dust and cobwebs the heave ho!

The wash rack looks amazing. Both barns are cobwebless (if it isn't a word it should be). The tack rooms and feed room are all spiffed up. We even had a shop vac to give the job that professional touch!

I left Phantom his usual treat of sliced carrots and apple, so he'll get a surprise when he comes in, since I didn't ride. (I got into the habit of slicing the treats when I was making bran mashes for Kiyara...I still slice and dice.)

Interesting. I'll go to the barn to sweep up heaven-knows-what and get coated with dust, but I'll be d____ed if I'll do housework at home. :-)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Character Study

Most fiction writers are amateur psychologists (some are genuine). We create our story characters out of thin air. We give them pasts that have shaped the character as he or she appears in the story. We give them goals and fears, strengths and foibles, friends and enemies. Writers observe the world around them with a slightly different viewpoint than "normal" folks. :-)

Which brings me to...

I started reading a blog written by a fascinating character. The blogger appears to be misleading readers through omission. I find this interesting because when reading the blog as written, one assumes the blogger has a particular set of skills, knowledge and abilities. However, when you are aware of facts that the blogger omitted, you realize the blogger is not only receiving assistance with the reported accomplishments, but paying a professional to achieve the stated goals.

When I first started reading the blog, I thought the writer had chutzpah to spare. Now I think it may be the opposite. What would motivate a person to mislead others into thinking the blogger is more accomplished than the writer actually is? Low self esteem? Was the blogger raised with expectations that the writer fears are not achievable? Is the blogger intimidated by others who demonstrate competance with the desired skills? Hmmm.

Pondering the blogger's method of misleading through omission may provide the starting point to develop the antagonist in one of my stories. The protagonist is a student worker at a training stable who has no horse of her own. She's a talented rider, but is limited to showing school horses. Onto the scene arrives the spoiled girl with the obscenely expensive horse. As they say in the writing business -- complications ensue.

Where do writers get their ideas for characters? Everywhere!

Monday, March 23, 2009


Good ride in spite of the wind and rattling arena. Makes for a good ride-itude.

Owed Phantom profuse apologies. I put his turnout sheet on him when I left on Friday. A little premature on my part. The medium weight turnout went back on him today. He felt warm under the sheet, but given the wind and cold rain, I think he deserved the warmer turnout.

Active day at the barn today. Young Trainer Kelly was riding Boarder Kim's youngster Finn when I arrived. Kim made the wise choice to have someone younger (not that Kim is ancient) make the early rides on Finn while the big kid is figuring out where his feet are. He's doing very well and seems to have a good mind.

Boarders Char and Genevieve arrived about the same time followed by Trainer Tracey. The bad news is, Zorro has an abscess. The good news is, it's only an abscess. The bad news was COLD waiting for the vet to arrive!

It was young horse day, as Trainer Tracey longed her Friesian/Arab guy and worked with Zoe.

Char and I shared the arena. She did her pre-ride ground work while I longed Phantom. I KNEW, given the whistling wind, that Phantom would be wired -- but he wasn't giving me much on the longe line. Finally, after reversing direction once again, he blasted off. Yes! Get it out of your system on the longe, not under me! After ten minutes of running in circles on the longe line, Phantom was a gentleman under saddle. Pugsley tap danced once and Phantom did a brief boot scoot on at least one occasion. Otherwise, both guys did well given the weather.

Indy and Breeze had recess in the arena, but didn't play much. Since Breeze gets a little assertive, Indy kept near the mounting block or humans as safe havens -- although he really wanted to run in circles around imaginary sheep.

Saw the entire Critter Control Crew today. Romeo and Moe came around in search of scratches and pets. On Friday I noticed mousey remains near the parking area, indicating they've been at work.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I added a few paragraphs to "Legacy," but this weekend I made the most progress on "Wizard's Window."

This is a story that I've revived, since I conceived it years ago. I've been using my cobbled together outlining method that combines several sources for organizing a story arc.

Zoe, my 14-year-old protagonist, just stepped from her life into the fantasy realm. She will spend the rest of the book trying to return home with the assistance of Merritt, a wizard in training.

Zoe is very unhappy about the family's move from the Seattle area to a suburb south of Portland. She's had difficulty making new friends, and she's anxious about beginning high school in the fall. Both of her parents have been busy with a new job and settling in to their new house. Most irritating of all, her younger brother immediately made new friends. Plus, Zoe is upset about leaving behind the boarding stable where she was taking riding lessons. When her mother is too busy to check out a nearby stable, Zoe stomps upstairs to her room where she gets a big surprise.

I'm writing this story in first person, and it seems to be flowing more easily at the moment than "Legacy," which is written in third person. I may need to revisit POV for Legacy.

Anyway...feeling good about making progress on at least one of my projects.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Frogs in Love

Indy and I set out for our morning walk the other day and were met by a chorus of croaking. Ah, frogs in love!

One of the neighborhood homes has a fountain and tiny pond in the front yard where a couple of frogs were in full operatic voice. The catch basin near the park where we usually walk was a caucophony of froggy pick-up lines.

Must be spring!


Finally made it to the touted 4-H tack sale at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby. It was a wonderland for the western folks. Not so much for hunter/jumper or dressage enthusiasts. Although, there were generic horse care items aplenty. Nothing I needed, and I didn't see any of the specific items on my list.

For someone decorating a home or business in an equestrian theme, it was a gold mine. Especially anyone going for an Old West look.


So he's a Sheltie and by lineage a Scotsman. I have decided that Indy's Native American name definitely must be "Pees Like a Horse."

Now he's even beginning a mini stretch before he pees with four on the floor.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


By now most folks have heard about the untimely death of Natasha Richardson resulting from a fall on the ski slopes. Media reports indicate that her spill was nothing spectacular and that she was quickly back on her feet -- appearing to be fine. Except she wasn't okay.

Back in the olden days when I was boarding Kiyara at a hunter barn, our practice was to line up our helmets and crops along the top of the gate while we did our "flat" work. When it was time to begin the jumping phase of the lesson, we migrated to the gate to put on our helmets and pick up our "persuader" of choice. Then Trainer Janet had a bad accident while training a young horse. Alone in the arena, she suffered a concussion and a serious back injury. She recovered -- but from that point on we all began wearing our helmets when in the saddle, whether warming up on the flat or working over fences. A few years later when we hosted a US Pony Club chapter, we adults believed it was wise to set an example by wearing our helmets when riding. Plus, it was the smart thing to do.

I have a young friend whose life was saved by his motorcycle helmet.

I do not understand any adult who allows their child to go without a helmet on horseback, bicycle, ATV, skiing, etc.

"It's my personal choice whether or not I wear a helmet," counter some adults.

Well, actually, it isn't. It's my health insurance premium that goes up when benefits are paid out to non-helmet folks who file a claim for injuries that could have been prevented or reduced. It's my tax money that goes into the pool for state and federal disability benefits. It's society as a whole that suffers when people are permanently disabled mentally and physically by brain injuries that could have been avoided by the use of a helmet (not to mention the devastation to the affected family).

Natasha Richardson didn't expect to die from her skiing lesson on the beginner slope. No one expects to end up a "vegetable" when they set out on their motorcycle, bike, ATV, skateboard, horse, etc. Devastating, life-changing accidents happen to other people, not me. Until it is you.

When we know better, we do better. So many sporting activities now have lightweight, approved helmets at a reasonable price that there's no reason to go without one.

When PRCA bull riders start wearing helmets, neck rolls and crash know it's approved "macho" attire!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Momma Don't Ride

The last time Phantom's mane was clean. *sigh*

Today was a little calmer following our blustery weekend; however, when I arrived the little barn and arena were rattling and groaning in the rain and wind. The noises made ME jump, which didn't portend a relaxed ride.

I not only broke my wrist at the end of September, I broke my Nerve. Even though I wasn't riding when I had the accident, I'm less confident in the saddle since resuming riding. As my primary care physician and fellow horsewoman has said, at our age we don't bounce when we land -- we snap. My broken wrist was such a hassle that I don't want an instant replay.

It appears that I'm quickly becoming a fair weather rider.

Oh well. Phantom was past due for a barber shop session so I changed plans following a 10 minute longe. I made a quick pass with the shedding blade and gel scrubber. Hair EVERYWHERE! I then brushed out and rebraided his mane and forelock. His mane is badly in need of a shampoo, but that's not going to happen until it warms up around here. But Phantom didn't care -- he loved the attention.

About the time I would have been in the arena had I decided to ride, the wind picked up and a storm cell dumped on the barn. By the time I finished with his mane and returned Phantom to his turnout, the sun came out. :-/


Trainer Tracey had the vet out to vaccinate her horses and perform dental work. While Zoe was still whoozy from her dental tranq, Tracey took advantage of the moment to neaten up the mare. The poor little girl didn't know what had hit her today between the vet and the clippers, but apparently she was pretty good about it all.

Best of all, Tracey uncovered a cute little pinto mare! Zoe has put on a little weight since her arrival, and Tracey brushed off a ton of shedding hair. With Zoe's face trimmed up and mane shortened, we got a better idea of the mare-to-be. Not bad!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Oregon, My Oregon

Friday was a two mountain day...I could see both St. Helens and Mt. Hood on the way to the barn. The farrier was scheduled to do a lineup of horses, including Phantom. After the Goober Boy had his trim and front reset I let him free graze in the sun sans blanket. Happy pony!

Good thing we enjoyed the spring teaser on Friday, because the wet side (aka west side) weather we all know and love returned on Saturday. Today is wet and windy -- soggy kite weather.

Don't even look at the seven-day forecast unless you've got Goretex and Wellies.

Ah well, this is why covered arenas were invented. :-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Top Photo: Trainer Cathi and Cindy during 2002 event at Lake Oswego Hunt.
Right Photo: Trainer Tracey on Lefty, 2008 AHA Region IV Sport Horse Championships.

Last week I shared the arena with a rider taking a lesson from Trainer Tracey. As she was reminding the other rider not to collapse her ribcage, to ride into the outside rein, etc., I was checking myself for the same issues. One of the advantages of boarding at a lesson facility -- a reminder of my checklist! :-)

Several months ago a fellow boarder asked me if I planned on showing Phantom this summer. The first thing that popped out of my mouth was "I haven't taken a lesson in years!" She didn't think that should stop me and indicated she thought Phantom and I would be competitive based on what she'd observed of my rides. That was kind of her!

But it got me thinking about the role of our trainers and why I said what I said. Over the years I've read about and observed riders who prepped for and competed with minimal or no assistance from a trainer. Frankly, I don't know how they do it.

Maybe my attitude is shaped by my years of doing hunters with Kiyara. It's dangerous to fling yourself and your horse over fences without wise guidance! I've got books on riding, I read equine magazines, I observe riders in the warmup ring and in competition at shows, there are DVDs by Olympic stars -- but to my mind, nothing beats an experienced observer in real time.

We get into bad habits that we aren't aware of. Drooping shoulders, sliding hips, collapsed midsections, uneven hands, legs too far forward or behind.... Feels fine to us, but the trainer on the ground immediately notes the problems that can interfere with the very movement we're asking for. Man, it can feel weird when the trainer corrects your position and you're actually sitting in proper balance!!

Trainers assist us with the timing of our cues. Most amateur riders are a "day late and a dollar short" with our cues. We don't catch the horse's evasive action in time, ask for a change of gait at the wrong moment. fail to repeat hand/seat/leg cues to continue the desired movement, etc. The trainer can improve our timing and results.

The knowledgable eye on the ground will let us know if we're REALLY getting the requested movement from the horse. Is the rear leg actually crossing over? Is the horse really traveling on three tracks, or is it just snaking its neck to the side? Are you getting a genuine pivot, or is the horse cheating? With the appropriate guidance we can reinforce the correct movements instead of settling for approximations.

A good trainer helps the horse and rider build solid basics on which to build future skills. He or she will push the rider beyond his or her comfort level -- just enough to move to the next stage but not so much as to frighten or confuse. The trainer will know when you're ready to grasp and apply the next skill.

Not that our horses are perfect. Trainer Cathi diagnosed Phantom as bulging his midsection to the right and tipping his nose left. He was blocking his own movement. So we worked on exercises and homework to correct my position and to straighten out the little gray guy and viola! Hunter-jumper trainers place poles all over the place to slow a horse from rushing fences, or drifting over a jump, etc. Years of experience have given trainers an arsenal of tools for correcting problems.

I didn't get a horse in order to pay someone else to ride it, but a trainer can assess a horse from the saddle, apply remedies, and teach the owner to get the same results.

But of course, there are trainers and there are trainers. It can take a lot of shopping to locate a knowledgable trainer who can help you attain your riding goals in a safe manner suitable to you and your horse. I'm not much for the trainers who immediately go to gear and gadgets. Gadgets have their place on occasion, but I'd rather work with the biomechanics of both species to create a cohesive team. And there are the trainers who talk clients into buying a horse more suitable for the trainer instead of the owner. Guaranteed training and lesson income from an owner who is afraid of her horse.

So why am I not taking lessons if I believe trainers are so important? Primarily finances...a lack thereof. But we'll see. Maybe I can do my part to stimulate the economy via dressage lessons if any of the government funds come my way. :-)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Off on a Tangent -- Again

Okay, so I've sketched out the story arc for "book two" of "Legacy" and I've been scribbling scenes for the first part of the story. All pretty bad, but I at least have something on paper. Naturally, as I'm struggling with the story setup my mind wanders to my other unexecuted story ideas stuffed in binders and lining the shelves.

Yep...I did it again. I picked up another old story and started working on it while letting "Legacy" percolate on the back burner. I haven't completely set it aside -- I have been adding pages. But I've returned to "Wizard's Window" with some new angles.

Zoe, the protagonist of Wizard, is 14 years old. Her family relocated from the Seattle area to the Portland suburbs during the summer before her freshman year in high school. To Zoe's irritation, her younger brother Robert immediately found friends in their new neighborhood. Zoe has yet to meet anyone her own age in their new environs. Equally frustrating, she loves to ride horses and was taking lessons on school horses before their move. She's gone online to locate stables near their new home, but her parents are so busy with a new job and unpacking that they haven't had time to check out the barns.

It's the worst summer of her life. But gets worse when a young wizard inadvertently brings Zoe into his world and can't seem to return Zoe to her own world!

Most of my story ideas for YA fantasy are set in alternative worlds. But I have some story ideas set in a present-day suburb of Portland. The suburban location and a hunter-jumper stable are common threads for these stories. One story is a murder mystery, the other two are YA stories with fantasy/mystical elements. On the one hand, using common settings for several stories simplifies world building. On the other hand, it's kind of fun creating a connection between characters from completely separate stories.

I am such a Gemini...bouncing from story to story.

As long as I keep applying ink to paper in the form of words maybe I'll get somewhere.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cougar Weather

March is definitely coming in like a lion. We had a dusting of snow yesterday morning that quickly disappeared. This morning Indy and I again took our morning walk in the snow. It melted on hitting pavement, but looked like powdered sugar everywhere else. Barn Owner Susan e-mailed all of us earlier this morning to let us know that the ground was covered and snow was still coming down heavy. ARGH!

It was COLD (hey, I'm a wimpy Northwesterner) and snowing when I arrived at the barn. I put out all my tack ready to "dress" Phantom, but once I got him in the little barn I thought better of riding. So I took him into the arena and, as expected, he went wacko on the longe line with snow pelting the roof. Even when finished and removing arena footing from his feet, Phantom was jumping at every little noise. Obviously nothing to be gained with that attitude. Plus -- I was alone at the barn and since breaking my wrist I'm much less brave about doing "battle" on my own. When the imaginary cougars are prowling outside the arena, the horses' minds are elsewhere!

So Phantom got a zoom groom and was returned to his turnout with the guys. Naturally, by the time Indy and I hit the road, the sun was peeking out. However, there were (and still are) some nasty looking clouds heading our way from the Coast Range.

Wackadoodle horse on the longe line in the wackadoodle weather!


So, is Indy spending too much time around horses?

Indy generally lifts his leg to pee in normal male dog manner. However, on occasion, he will pee with all four paws planted. Just like a gelding, but with less of a stretch position.

Amusingly, the last two times we've been to the barn he's peed like a gelding just before jumping into the car. Must be the company?


During Phantom's recent "lively" longe sessions, he's demonstrated quite the extended trot. Really reaching under himself and stretching out his forelegs. In fact, today he had a few strides of really flinging those front feet while getting a moment of lift.

He's got the potential. Now if I could only learn how to properly ask for it from the saddle.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Barn Haps +

A look back at last summer.

Lots of activity at the barn so far this month. Freddie (a handsome thoroughbred gelding and Seattle Slew grandson) arrived with owner Anne. He resides in the little barn in the stall next to Phantom. Zorro (formerly Phantom's neighbor) relocated to the arena barn in the stall previously occupied by Guinness. Trainer Tracey acquired a new project horse. Zoe is a cute, fuzzy three-year-old pinto mare.

Generally, there are six of us who regularly frequent the barn on weekdays. Our visits don't always overlap, so we may or may not share the arena with each other. And every once in awhile I have the barn to myself.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived on Wednesday to see that Trainer Tracey and boarder Kim were already at the barn. Boarder Molly was also present to meet her shoer and give Harley and quick brushing. Just as I was about to collect Phantom from his turnout, an unfamiliar truck & trailer arrived with accompanying cars. They unloaded a handsome gray gelding and tacked him up for a lesson with Tracey. Since the weather was cooperative, I longed Phantom outside so as not to interfere with the lesson. Good thing I did -- he went whackadoodle and RACED around on the longe line. When Phantom and I arrived in the arena Tracey was riding the gorgeous gray for a group of onlookers, so I kept the pudgy gray Arab as far away from the elegant warmblood as I could. :-) But it's fun to have new faces at the barn.

We have a Barn Cleaning and Pizza Day scheduled for later this month. For the past few years we've hosted the Horse Owner's Workshop sponsored by the local feed store. In preparation, the boarders teamed up for a work day to clear away cobwebs, clean out tack rooms, scrub down the wash rack and generally spiff up the facility. The workshop will be held in-store at the new Wilco this year, but we're going to have our barn spring cleaning anyway. Clear up the over-winter stuff that accumulates when we're not looking.

Rumor has it that boarder Linda is planning a Play Day at the barn for next month. Can't wait to hear the details. So far I've heard "potluck" and "bring a 'gift' to be awarded as a prize." Hmmmm.

So much for the dilemma of when to switch mid-weight turnout blankets to sheets. There's a chance the Valley floor will see a dusting of snow this weekend. So Phantom will wear his warmer blanket for a few more days.

The Northwest Horse Expo will be held at the Linn County Fairgrounds in Albany again this month. And the twice yearly "Canby Tack Sale" will overflow the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby. The fabulous Devonwood Equestrian Center hosts the first of many dressage shows starting this month, also. The equine activities are starting up! Can the monsoons be far behind?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cut and Paste

My recent journey with the Wayback Machine reminded me about my "Cut and Paste" booklets. Amazingly, I readily located my photo albums from college as well as the booklets I created during those years. Cut and Paste was a diversion from my studies and an opportunity to use my imagination. In going through the booklets I note that they are also representative of the time period. Boomers will readily recognize some of the images and recall their source.

The Cut and Paste Process: Collect magazines like "Time" and "People" that contain a lot of photographs and advertising. "Life" and "Time" magazines were my best sources at the time. Once you have a good supply of source material, go through the magazines and cut out interesting pictures, article headings, and advertising copy. Keep the photos and captions separate. Then spread everything out on a large table and start combining photos with unlikely captions. Glue the picture and caption on a piece of paper to get something like the following:

I believe the above picture is from an article about drummer Buddy Rich. The caption is from a cigarette ad.

The equestrian crowd will recognize the following picture as Princess Ann and Captain Mark Phillips back in the day when they were an item. Again, the caption is from an ad.

I've started scanning my Cut and Paste booklets, since the originals are obviously yellowing with age and the glue is dying a slow death. I have to admit, I still get a laugh out of many of them.

Monday, March 2, 2009


It's official, the horses are shedding. Each grooming session leaves me coated in white and Phantom standing in the center of a white "rug" of hair.

When there is a breeze, it transforms the rug of hair into "whitecaps" down the aisle. Then the cross breeze creates round, fuzzy, horsehair "bunnies" all over the end aisle.


Both my mother and I have been suffering. I think it was the flowers I got her for Valentine's Day (lilies have "attacked" me in the past). Although, a snootful of horse hair and dander can't help.

By Friday I had the most horrible sore throat, itchy sneezy nose, puffy eyes, and muzzy head. I couldn't get far from the box of tissues.

I'm doing much better today, even though I still sound like Rachel Ray. However, after vegetating on the sofa all weekend, I merely dropped off my board check at the barn and headed back home. A reprieve for Phantom.