Thursday, April 30, 2009

Braids...To Pull or Not to Pull

This photo is copyright protected by Jim Bortvedt.

This is my favorite picture of Kiyara taken in 1992 at the Oregon State Fair back in the "olden days" when the fair still offered a hunter/jumper show. Aside from the fact that is among the first professional photos taken of us, and Kiyara is showing the world that Arabians are sport horses...I get a kick out of the woman shading her eyes from the flash, and the farmer grandpa sitting in the stands with his granddaughter.

All Horse Stuff is debating whether or not to pull her mare's beautiful black mane. I think she can get away with a French braid for dressage clinics and schooling shows; however, since Wa is a thoroughbred I suspect that she would be expected to compete in "peanut braids" at a rated dressage show.

ON THE OTHER HAND...I suggested she try looped or scalloped braids such as those in the above photo. Back in the day I paid an amazing braider to do Kiyara's mane. It took forever, so I did not remove the braids at the end of the day as everyone else did with the peanut braids. The scallop braids worked well over fence (unlike a French braid) and were the talk of the show grounds (primarily because of Chris' phenomenal job).


I'm obviously not a reliable source when it comes to pulling manes.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Novel Shortcuts

I attended Laura Whitcomb's workshop on "Novel Shortcuts"  at last year's Willamette Writers Conference. At the time, she indicated she had a book coming out on the topic. I have been awaiting it's publication ever since. On Monday I gleefully purchased Novel Shortcuts, Ten Techniques That Ensure A Great First Draft. 

As promised, the book provides great ideas for getting the story organized before writing so that, once you apply words to paper or computer, there will be (it's hoped) less editing required to get the novel to the point where it's ready to pitch.

Now I have a whole new approach to Legacy. *sigh* But I think it will work out better in the end...if I ever get to the end!

Okay, so my basic framework for Legacy and most of my other YA fantasies is the Feminine Journey -- the "girlie" version of the Hero's Journey per Joseph Campbell and Chris Vogler. With this in mind, I try to plot the story in accordance with Syd Field's three act structure as applied by Larry Brooks in his Story Architecture from his "Six Core Competencies" workshop at the Willamette Writers Conference. In developing the story I make use of Victoria Schmidt's Book in a Month, the fool-proof system for writing a novel in 30 days.

Now I have Laura Whitcomb's approach to fold into the mix.

In reading her book, I realized that Legacy is a single book, not a series of three. Perhaps in three parts, but probably not. And I have in mind what Laura calls the "pinpoint of the story crosshairs moment." Lynn Schmidt suggests writing down ten essential scenes. Laura Whitcomb suggests writing down the "crosshairs" moments. One overarching story crosshair moment, plus individual crosshair moments to write toward and away from. So I think the two approaches to organization will meld well.

Laura Whitcomb has a "Shortcut to the Scene" that I think will be very helpful. For each scene she creates a single page that includes what needs to happen in the scene (basic actions and internal changes among the characters), ideas for dialogue, and a free-writing section where she scribbles for 10 minutes in a brainstorming session. She highlights the "keepers" in the dialogue and free-writing sections, and uses the one-pager as a guide as she writes the scene. It leaves her enough room for creativity as she writes the scene while it assures that she doesn't get sidetracked or leave out something important.

Anyway...I'll be using Laura Whitcomb's "Novel Shortcuts" as I revisit what I've already drafted.

By the way...Laura is the sister of Cynthia Whitcomb who is the president of Willamette Writers and anaccomplished screenwriter who is now writing plays.

If it sounds like I'm high on the Willamette Writers Conference, I am. It's one of the largest in the country and has a good reputation among agents and editors.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Improved Ride-itude

Much better ride today. I tried to implement the comments from Sunday's Play Day when I rode Training One. Most of us requested comments instead of scores, since it was to be a fun and casual "competition."

The good news was, Phantom had good impulsion and we made good use of the arena. Our judge (aka Trainer Tracey) indicated that we were a "very capable pair." That's nice to hear after all the work I've been doing on my own.

Suggestions included: bring upper body back more perpendicular, shorten the reins, and to look through the horse's ears and bring my chin up -- don't look to the side (old hunter/jumper habits die hard). 

So today that's what I attempted to do and -- gosh and begorra -- we had a better session. In trying to sit "back" more I also tried to make my shoulder blades touch, which usually helps firm up my midsection. Looking through the horse's ears, I think, additionally aided in firming my torso. Man, I used to get compliments for my "eye" in the hunter ring. *sigh* Change of discipline.  :-) Anyway, I believe my position improved somewhat, because Phantom responded better. He's my report card.

Amazing! Trainers know what they're talking about. ;-)

After near- or genuine record-breaking heat the past few days, we're clouded over and much cooler in the Valley today. The horses are "nekked" -- sans turnout sheets. That's got to feel good to them. However, the rain returns tonight and it's supposed to be showery tomorrow. It's only April. We can expect a few more hot and sunny days as well as more rain. It ain't summer in the Metro area until the Rose Festival is over.

Monday, April 20, 2009

No Wonder

No wonder I couldn't format fonts or add links to my blog entries! I just replaced my five-year-old iMac with a new and improved iMac with a 24" screen and loads more gigawhatchamacallit. I now have a toolbar that never appeared before. Yeeha!

When I got a new digital camera for Christmas and couldn't install the software for the camera, it became obvious that I had to do something about my computer. So I decided to buy a new one with my tax refund. I traded in my old iMac on the new one, which allowed me to get the next model up for about the same price as the lower model plus software. I have to have Office so I can draft my novels in Word.

The new 24" iMac is HUGE! And the keyboard is teeny. No number keypad, which was always in my way anyway. I'm an English Major...I don't do numbers.  :-)

I've been in the process of installing and updating software. Plus getting surprises as I move about my computer and online to find new stuff -- like the toolbar on my blog!

CEC Play Day

I rode Training Level Test One. Phantom did pretty well. His left lead canter was kind of logy, but his right lead canter (historically his problem lead) was energetic. Trainer Tracey's comments were spot on and provided areas for me to work on. My years of riding hunters was a plus and a minus. I went deep into the corners...when riding a jump course one should use every inch of the arena to set up for the next line of fences. However, that look ahead for the next fence is a no-no in the dressage arena. At least Tracey acknowledged how hard it is to break those old habits. Anyway...I'm looking forward applying her suggestions when next I ride.

This is Phantom munching between dressage and trail.

There were four of us in the Ride a $Buck$ class, two western and two dressage. I was eliminated early when my dollar bill slipped out from beneath my knee. Believe me, other than losing a whole dollar, I was not upset. Tamra, Mick and Tracey were put through equestrian boot camp by our team of judges. Tracey was the next to lose her "buck."  All in good fun, Tracey threatened Tamra with a dressage whip to get a "real" trot out of Liberty instead of the western pleasure "plod." Mick was a strong competitor, but Tamra finally won the class.

It was Tamra and Tracey battling it out in the musical "chairs" game. The crew placed parallel poles on the ground to form "stalls" to ride the horses into when the music stopped. It came down to dressage versus western for the final stall. The music stopped and the riders urged their horses nose-to-nose. This time, dressage won out and Tracey took the honors.

AND -- per usual, the food table was generously supplied. There was a fruit plate, but also taco soup, salsa & cream cheese, taco chips aplenty, and two types of brownies. 

The prize table was an interesting mix of items from the Dollar Store. I nabbed a plastic water bottle, a set of bungee cords, and a Snickers bar.

A good time was had by all. Kudos to Linda who came up with the idea and all who made preparations and participated. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

CEC Play Day

We didn't have a horseback Halloween costume party, and our Christmas party was snowed out, and snowed out, and snowed out -- well, you get the picture. So Linda decided we were past due for a fun get together at the barn. With our busy schedules, the day-time folks don't see the evening folks, and the weekday folks don't always see the weekend folks. Thus, we gathered today for a day of fun and horses.

Our fearless ringleader for the day's events was Linda:

We began the day with "Dressage Test of Choice." Trainer Tracey was our judge who provided helpful assessments of our Intro and Training One rides. Everyone received a baggie of horse treats and a coupon good for one Dollar Store gift from the gift table. :-) Dressage was followed by English and Western pleasure and equitation, and walk-trot. Tamra and Liberty warmed up again after dressage:

We then moved outside for our trail classes, one ridden and one in hand. Mick takes Bay through his paces under the watchful eye of judge Mikyla and his competition:

Dressage trail, anyone? Trainer Tracey backs Chynna through the L. Beats passage and two tempes, says Chynna!

The Peanut Gallery watches the trail competition:

Owner Susan oversees the trail-in-hand course:

Gwen begins the in-hand trail course with Barney:

Char takes Pugsley through the course:

The Trail-in-hand wasn't just for horses! Connor and Sandy show them how it's done canine-wise:

Christopher and kira provide tough competition:

And yes, the paparazzi showed up when news got out about our Play Day and the great weather:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bratitude Adjustment

The courbette is an upper level dressage movement -- when asked for. When Phantom does it, he's being a brat.

On Monday, I excused Phantom's bratty attitude because of the unsettled weather. Hail hitting a metal roof unnerves me, too. However, come Wednesday with no storms blowing through, I got fed up with his mini-courbette when I asked for a sidepass or back up. He only pops up a little in the front, but I don't like the evasion. I wasn't blocking his movement and asked for the sidepass with an open rein. So...out came the side reins and an additional 15-20 minutes of longeing. This had a definite effect on his bratitude and I ended up with some decent lateral work AND backing up.

Today I started with the side reins. I always let Phantom longe without the side reins attached in order to release any pent up piss and vinegar. I then worked him for 15-20 minutes with the side reins. Not nearly as resistant to them as he was on Wednesday. Worked him in the looky-loo corners and did some trot/canter transitions and spiral in and out at the trot.

He was still bratty about the looky loos in the corners when I was in the saddle, but Zorro was also being a bit naughty. The High Pressure Hops? Sheesh!

Anyway, I worked through posting trot, canters each direction, then sitting trot to do some lateral moves. Then, with an empty arena (yay!) I went through the Training Level One test a couple of times. Polished it ain't. Good thing our Sunday Play Day at CEC is intended to be a low key gathering for riding, socializing and eating.

Phantom is noticably stiffer/more resistant to the right. I tend to get squidgy in the midsection when riding, but when I "touch" my shoulder blades it helps me firm up my torso and Phantom moves better. He also goes better wihen I have firm but relaxed contact with my full leg. Go figure -- it's the rider's position. :-)

We have a gorgeous weather forecast for the weekend. Supposed to push 80 degrees by Sunday, so I'm looking forward to a day at the barn with fellow horse folks enjoying our critters and each other on a pleasant spring day.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Double Barreled Writing

I continued to work on "Wizard" this weekend, but also did some rewriting on "Legacy." As hoped, by taking a break from "Legacy" I came up with a slight change in the backstory and made a decision regarding POV. I'm going to try something to see if it will work.

Anyway...surprised my little self by producing pages for both stories!


It was a case of Low-Pressure-Looky-Loos. I drove to the barn in a hail storm. The sun broke out while I was grooming and tacking up. At least two heavy rain cells blew over while I was in the arena. And a serious hail storm passed over after I'd turned out Phantom and was putting things away. ARGH!

It was a little difficult getting Phantom's attention while he was eyeballing each end and all four corners of the arena. *sigh*

I longed before riding to take off the edge as I always do. I got in 20-25 minutes of riding and was just getting ready to begin sitting trot and lateral work when Phantom notched up the hairy-eyeball routine (apparently in response to the immiment storm cell). I jumped off and longed him again past all the trouble spots and called it good. I did get some decent trot work and a canter each direction before starting the second longe session. I figure there's not much to be gained if Phantom isn't listening and I'm getting irritated.

So...I'll aim for some lateral work during my next ride. The weather is supposed to be clearing up as the week progresses.

Sheesh! In recent weeks we've had sunny 70 degrees to toppling freezing levels and hail storms. Spring in western Oregon. Gotta love it!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Put Phantom through his paces today in preparation for next weekend's fun day at the barn. The CEC Barn Bunch will be gathering for a day of low-key competition and food. Notice how food plays a significant role in our barn activites? We'll have a mix of English and western classes, trail classes ridden or in-hand, and "ride a buck." That's buck as in $, not buck as in "yeeha!" (the dollar under the knee class, last one to lose his or her dollar wins).

For comic relief, I signed up to do Training Test 1 in the dressage-test-of-choice class. First, I had to get a copy of the test. Boarder Char helped verify that I had the one in current use. Then to learn the test, which wasn't too bad. And next, ride elements of the test. Ah, there's the rub.

I actually had the arena to myself for most of my ride today, so I made one run through the whole test. Oops, Phantom stiffened up for the latter half of the test. A little resistant to the right. So we did circles and transitions to the right until I was over-riding and he was anticipating. Once I got a bit of consistently soft and round work, we changed rein. More transitions in the new direction -- by now Phantom was getting a little anxious. Managed to get a couple of decent transitions and turns up the center line so called it good.

We generally do a posting trot on a long rein to stretch out and loosen up at the end of our ride before our cool down at a walk.

All in all, for not having taken lessons for years nor having ridden a dressage test for an equal or greater number of years, I was pleased with our work. I think next week I'll focus on lateral work, then revisit the test movements on Friday.

Good ride-itude today.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

In Memory

Lucky Charm, June 6, 1999 - April 8, 2009

This is Lucky with his twin persons on joining the family ten years ago. He was a soft coated wheaten terrier, a breed I recommended to my friend Karen for Steven and Emily. Wheatons are a medium sized dog, sturdy enough for play, but not too big. Wheatons were bred to do it all: hunt varmints, herd, guard the homestead, and provide companionship. Not much herding or varmint hunting to do in the Seattle burbs, but plenty of companionship provided.

Regrettably, Lucky was humanely euthanized on Wednesday because of a terminal health issue. He will be sorely missed.

They say dogs leave pawprints on our hearts. I know this to be true.

Good dog, Lucky.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

This Little Piggie

The piglets arrived today from the auction. A pair of sisters from the same litter. They are the boys' 4-H project and this is about as cute as they'll get. They are reported to be around fifty pounds. If I have it right, the boys will add another 200 pounds for the 4-H Fair in August. Weight gain is carefully regulated. The boys have to bring the pigs to weigh-ins during the spring and summer to make sure the pigs aren't putting on too much weight too quickly. The boys will also train the pigs for showmanship with the goal of competing in conformation and showmanship at the fair.

Cody and William took umbrage with the piglets taking up residence near their turnout. Finn and Phantom were free grazing closeby and reacted to Cody and William more than to the pigs. Last year Phantom accepted the pigs as long as they were in the pen where they belonged. However, once a blue tarp was added to provide the pigs some shade during the heat of the summer, Phantom was NOT happy. The tarp flapped in the wind and made a nose -- obviously the traits of a horse eater.

We've talked about rotating the horses in the turnout near the pigs so the horses can become accustomed to other farm animals. I figure the more my horse is exposed to, the better. Back in the olden days when the State Fair offered hunter/jumper classes and I competed Kiyara, we had to deal with miscellaneous critters in the nearby livestock pavilion and come and go past the cattle wash racks. Not to mention warming up next to the racetrack (a thrill for all those riding recycled thoroughbreds!).


He trotted out sound again today. I didn't detect heat in his foot, but that could just be me. I let him free graze, then returned him to the round pen. We'll see what he's up to tomorrow. Still the potential of an abscess acting shy for the moment.


Absolutely fabulous day! Low 70s, nice breeze. Home owners will be dragging their b___s to work on Monday after a weekend of yard work.

I attacked some overgrown shrubs in our yard, and went on a seek and destroy mission to clean the cat pooh from our barkdust.

Indy kept me company while I did yard work. When a couple of neighborhood cats joined us, he just watched them and later tried to play with the cats. They, of course, thought he was a goober. :-)

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Phantom trotted and cantered sound on the longe line this morning. In fact, when spooked by an invisible horse eater, he did an extended trot. Flung those front feet out there!

What's that all about?! He was definitely ouchy yesterday. I have witnesses.

His right front is still warm, however, so I soaked it and let him free graze for a little while. Then I placed him in the round pen when I left so it will be easier to monitor him.

I don't know what's up with the Goober Boy. His owee was either a stone bruise, or he has a coy abscess -- lurkiing but not yet making an appearance.

We have honest-to-goodness spring weather predicted for this weekend. Hard to believe, since it was freeze-your-hiney-off cold this morning. I switched out Phantom's medium-weight turnout to his turnout sheet. If it gets as warm as promised, I'm sure owner Susan and the crew will pull blankets. There will be lots of rolling in the turnouts if the shedding ponies are "nekked." Just might register at the local earthquake center!

Friday, April 3, 2009


Brought Phantom in from turnout, brushed and tacked him up, walked him over to the arena, sent him out on the longe line -- and he was head-bobbing sore. So I stopped him, pulled off a glove and sure enough, his right front foot was warm.


I'm thinking it's an abscess. Tendon is tight, no edema, heat focused below fetlock. Plus...we've had 3-4 horses pop abscesses over the past month. Phantom did have a small stone wedged in his heel that I picked out during grooming, but I'm thinking I won't be so lucky that he has a minor bruise. No...I've already got a tab running at the vet's from Monday's jabs and dental work -- why stop there?

I soaked his foot in epsom salt today (scrounged from my just-in-case trunk where it had turned into a solid block over time -- like coal turns into a diamond, only much less valuable). I must say, Phantom was exceptionally good about soaking, since I used one of my little buckets for him to stand in. I'll see how he's doing tomorrow morning before I start making calls.

Phantom seldom has soundness problems, so I count myself fortunate. His previous owner had to deal with a trailering injury. About ten years ago I had the summer of the strained hind tendon.

So the Goober Boy is on a staycation.