Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I am long overdue for a post. Make that a few posts. The past two weeks have been great, especially riding and jewelry wise. Caesar and I put in a good run at the pipe opener and an even better run at a horse trial this past weekend, but I will write a longer post on that at a later date.

I have been slowly but surely creating some new jewelry pieces and honing my new skills. I have improved my sawing skills, and I can now cut out tiny whimsical pieces that I quite fancy (another student said "Your pieces are so small!" :) I designed a pendant in honor of Caesar; his registered name is "Hound Deer", and while it's ridiculous (his sire's name is Deer Hound which makes sense, but Hound Deer, what the heck is that?), the name has grown on me. So I drew and cut out a tiny brass deer and hound. I then sweat soldered the pieces onto silver. The hound finished nicely, but the deer had a strange reaction with the silver. I know now that silver and brass don't get along, but I had to learn the hard way (as you can see here):

I may salvage the hound portion and craft another deer out of copper and mount it on silver, making two little pendants that can sit side by side. Poor hound and deer...

Today I learned to make cold connections; I already knew how to sweat solder (attach two pieces of metal using a solder torch), but I was excited to learn how to connect metals and objects with no heat. Basically we learned to make rivets, tiny little hand-created nails. And...I love cold connections! Or at least after making my first three! Ha! And I completed a mixed media piece today! I love it! I pressed brass wire mesh into a piece of delicate Japanese paper and then mounted the combination between two pieces of metal: a piece of brass that I texturized and flattened and a copper cut-out of a branch (the silhouette of which I used in an earlier piece). I attached the three pieces with three rivets. This is the final piece:

I then made some simple earrings by forging brass and attaching an amethyst bead:

Here are the two together:

Please excuse the grainy photos; still learning to properly photograph jewelry. Maybe I am just proud to be moving in new directions, but I am quite pleased!

I will be working on several more pieces in Mississippi this week as Mike and I are headed down south; I hope to post photos soon!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Thought I would go ahead and give you the bad news first. Today was my third horse trial with Caesar; we went baby beginner novice at Full Moon. And. We. Got. Eliminated. Poo-poo. POOO! Suffice it to say that the honeymoon is over. When we started jumping for real in March, Caesar was happy to book me around single fences, stadium courses, and xc courses with kindness and ease. Much of my job relied on sitting up and letting him do his job. I do not jump him assertively; if anything, I defer to him. Bad idea. Though he is a fabulous jumper, and in his former career jumped up to 3'9" (and higher at times) with nary a stop, he is still a horse. That means he needs me to, well, RIDE HIM!

To tell the whole story, I need to rewind a week. We had two great xc schools at Loch Moy and Tranquility, and on Monday a great dressage workout. Tuesday was a bit icky on the flat, and then Wednesday and Thursday were just dreadful. I had jump lessons both days, and I was pulling and he was racing. We had two stops each day, and these were dirty stops, at least for Caesar, i.e., I tumbled onto his neck on one. Ewww. My trainer was quite upset at me for pulling and not trusting and...the list goes on. I was feeling pretty crappy Thursday night and made a plan to restore some trust between Caesar and me on Friday. With Megan's help, we first did some flatwork (really where the problems begin; I have been struggling with getting him straight and turning properly on the flat) then moved into pole work. Once he was trotting quietly and in a forward, straight manner over poles, we moved to a simple gymnastic. We built it up and he was great each time. Then we jumped some fences singly and then a few lines. AMAZING! He was not rushing and I was sitting up and not pulling. We had a similar workout on Saturday so I felt pretty ready for today. Although I have to admit that I still had some major anxiety about it all. Dressage was not very pretty, but there were slight improvements upon our last test (I didn't even get my score sheet; I had enough to think about with xc). Stadium was awesome; he was forward and willing, and I did a good job of balancing him.

However, he did knock a rail, make that three, in the warm-up and the ring and the xc warm up; they didn't fall. Knocking one 2' rail once is no big deal, but then again and again. Not like him. I was feeling a little wary as we waited to start xc. He just didn't feel like himself--sluggish in dressage and knocking rails and overly preoccupied with his trailer buddy. Ugh. The first xc fence was bad as I didn't get my line correct, but the second was worse. He seemed to lock onto it, but about 5 strides out, he slowed down and looked at it. Then I looked at it. Did I urge him forward and keep a supporting leg? Not really. Actually, I tilted my body forward (bad idea, right?) So one stride out, he stopped and sort of stumbled. I was already way too forward and I fell on his neck then on his side. It took me about 10 seconds to fall. I was holding on and really trying to get back up, like an awkward sloth, (he was taking tiny walk steps...really, he is a good boy), but in the end, I just gave up and stumbled to the ground. ACK! I was so pissed. I hit him a few times, probably not very fair, and cursed several times. Megan thought they might let me go on since I hadn't exactly fallen, so I got back on ( Caesar, meanwhile was apologizing by being a total gentleman). I wasn't allowed to continue so we went back to the warm-up and jumped a few fences. I was ticked and a very, very determined to get him over the fences. And we jumped well. I was confident and assertive. Hmmmm. Imagine that.

Of course, I was upset, not least because I worry I am messing up my horse. He is not a stopper, but I have now created an issue for us to conquer. But as Abby reminded me this week, in the words of Jimmy Wofford, you have to ride the horse you have. The horse I have right now is a little unsure of me and worries when I pitch forward and pull at his face; he isn't as confident jumping as he was and needs an assertive ride. I have to start riding with a crop and start putting my leg on and keeping it on. Today didn't scare me; if anything, the experience was educational--I was frustrated but determined to fix the problem. So that is good; better to wound your pride than your confidence. I think we can figure this out, but it will take stepping back. This week we need to do some gymnastics and "easy" jumps to build confidence. Tomorrow, Caesar gets the day off, but Tuesday we are going to go on a solo trail ride, something he doesn't love (but that we should do more). I am hoping the ride will help him trust me. Then, if it goes well, we will finish with some xc fences. We are doing the pipe opener at Full Moon on Saturday; it will be good to attempt the same xc course again. I was quite upset not to be able to ride it; I have such a good plan (complete with jump to jump photos)! Oh well. These things happen. And really, we had a fantastic start to our competition season with ribbons and great rides. Beginner's luck perhaps. Now comes the real riding--solving problems, albeit the fact that I have created them.

I have to be patient with Caesar (his near sainthood over fences has caused me to have a low tolerance for bad jump schools)and with myself. And I have to have fun and not worry so much about the problems. Getting overwhelmed helps no one. I feel ready to make some changes and become the rider I need to be. That feels good :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 9 Already?

I had every intention of posting a few times last week, and now I suddenly find myself in the middle to the next week, with myriad excuses. I really am building some bad blogging habits. Gasp!

Last week was a big week for the fourth graders I teach as they moved the oyster spat they had been raising from the Baltimore Harbor to a restoration project site in the Bay. I was unable to accompany them on their trip, but it seems they had plenty of attention--three media outlets came along for the ride, capturing some nice interviews and footage. To be honest, the camera crews were there more for Under Armour, who has recently started a sustainability department and allowed us to house our oyster spat on their dock. So though the cameras weren't for us, it was a great experience for the kids. Here is a link to a news clip:

Watch this! (proving that the local news really doesn't do a great job of investigative reporting, the segment is titled "oyster harvest" instead of restoration; our students watched with horror as the reporter fudged some of the facts!)

Mike and I went to a great concert on Saturday; it was an outdoor festival featuring Patty Griffin and the Avett Brothers (who are amazing live) in the middle of nowhere New Jersey. What's funny is that I never imagined NJ to have much a nowhere, but really, we could have been in Alabama. In one 6 mile stretch, we passed three western outfitters/tack stores, several dairy farms, and a rodeo center, complete with overweight horses and cows all living together in crammed quarters. This was New Jersey? If only southerns knew that :)

On Sunday, my friend April and I took our horses cross country schooling at Tranquility Manor; it's a really beautiful farm and the xc course was good for Caesar and me--we jumped a big bank up and down, a few novice fences, and some great jumps in the woods. The day was not without issues as we had a few stops and some "runaway to my new mare girlfriend" moments, but I was quite pleased with our efforts overall, and, more importantly, it was fun!

I started my jewelry course at MICA on Tuesday, and it was, um, interesting. I think the course will be quite good, but the first class was a bit boring at times and intimidating at others. Our first assignment had little to do with metalsmithing--we had to take various office supplies (markers, index cards, post-it notes, electrical tape, etc.) and create something artistic. Hmmmm. Something artistic. With paper. Made by my hands. Right. I was of course intimidated. I have never been artistic nor have I ever really wanted to be. I do love making jewelry and decorating, but drawing and painting, no, no, no. Not my thing. As a kid I could not color in the lines so I decided that it was stupid and never attempted it again. Needless to say, I got many an unhappy face on my "art projects". Even last night when I was recounting the details of my class to my friend, Linn, she mentioned that I doodle well. Then I had to remind her that I had two doodles I relied on--a bunch of grapes that my mother always drew when on long phone calls and a smattering of swirls that I picked up from someone else. Of course. Ha. I never even learned to write in a fancy way, unless you count doctor script.

So back to my project. I got this grand idea that cutting tiny strips of electrical tape and layering the strips one of top of the other, alternating colors would be unique. A few minutes later, I had made a lump of tape on an index card. Beautiful. Meanwhile my classmates were already moving on to their second piece; asymmetrical balance abounded, beautiful lines and movement, striking color patterns. Blech! Whatever would I do? My second attempt was a little better and my third--a quiltish thing made of tiny strips of post-it notes wasn't half bad. And I made a tree, the leaves of which were those tiny electrical tape strips. When it was time to share, I found myself feeling very envious. Many of the other students were at one time MICA students and thus possess some background in art, or at least, some confidence. I will say that though my pieces looked very elementary (imagine the work of a 6th grade boy who would rather be playing outside), they were diverse and at least a little bit creative. I'm not so worried. I already have several pieces of jewelry I have made that I feel proud of, and I have lots of ideas. I do hope to learn to be more precise and to work more carefully (I am a bit of a rusher). In general I feel like I come up with good ideas, but the execution is where I struggle. Patience.

The great news is that we can use the studio almost every day of the week while enrolled--open studio hours means I will be one prolific jeweler (I hope:) And I promise I will post some photos of my work soon.

Riding has been up and down this week. A great flat session followed by a not so great flat session followed by a messy jump lesson today. Suffice it to say I was pulling on Caesar big time, and he was pissed about that. We blew through several lines and made some scary barrel racers turns to get around. Oh no. Yikes. But tomorrow, my trainer is having me use a hackamore. Hopefully that will help me remember what it feels like to let go. I sure hope so--I don't want Sunday to be a wreck. More on that to come.

Hope you are having a great week wherever you are!