Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Break!

I can’t deny that teaching has some great benefits, spring break as an adult being one of them. I’ve been enjoying the week off by doing not very much of anything—riding, reading, being outside. Unfortunately Monday and Tuesday were quite rainy, great for reading but not for riding. My lesson on Monday went very well especially considering I thought we were doomed when it came to riding in the indoor (Caesar is sluggish and stiff; I am stiff and anxious…). Our ride yesterday (also inside) was less notable; at the end, I worked outside for a bit and got a much more expressive trot from Caesar; all is not lost. My lovely friend/coworker, Jacqui, stopped by for a visit and pampered Caesar and his pasture pals. I think she must be some sort of horse whisperer; both Caesar and his equally grouchy bud, Casey, walked right up to her and awaited her pats. These two are usually the ears back, indifferent type. It was great to see them just be friendly ponies; of course, once we had Caesar tied up and got to grooming him, his ears went back and he barred his teeth. Oh, Caesar…

Today I trekked up to Philadelphia with Mike and his anatomy students. We saw the Body Worlds exhibit at the Franklin Institute; I didn’t know exactly what to expect, not being too interested in anatomy, or, um, cadavers. But it was quite fascinating; I left with a renewed appreciation for the human body.

The weather made a nice about face today—the sun came out early and the temperature rose to 70. When Mike and I got home, we pulled out the bikes and went for an hour and a half bike ride. It was glorious! But the hills really got to me—another reminder that I am very much out of shape. Knowing that my riding will improve as my fitness does is good motivation, hopefully enough to keep going! We’ll be joining the Hopkins gym tomorrow, and they have a decent climbing wall which means we’ll be able to climb a lot more often and on the cheap!

In horsey news, Caesar and I will be going to a Paper Chase with another boarder on Friday; as I understand it, we’ll ride at 6 mile course at the trot and canter, jumps optional. Along the way we’ll have to collect poems and candy, sort of a scavenger hunt. Riding, poems, and candy—sounds like fun to me! And next week, we’re planning on doing a pipe opener on Saturday and a combined test on Sunday. Exciting for sure, but I admit I’m pretty anxious! I have been looking forward to competing for so long, but now that it’s here, I am not sure I’m ready! Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


What do you suppose explorers actually saw when they made those countless mermaid sightings on the earliest sea voyages? And those who still claim to see them…do you think it was/is just dugongs? Or maybe the affect of dehydration?

I’m not so sure. I’ve never been one for fantasy and certainly not crytopzoology. I think that most “sightings” can be explained by either the imagination or overtired eyes (although I swear I once saw a panther on Hwy 59 in southern MS, but that’s not so out of the ordinary; really, it was there…I saw it.) However, there’s a part of me that might want to believe that those mermaids were real. I caught a piece on NPR that mentioned mermaid sightings off the Atlantic in the early 17th Century. It made me think—could it be that mermaids existed? I would like to think the early settlers of America—being shipman, engineers, land surveyors, astronomers, sometimes all of the above, wouldn’t mistake a lethargic, hefty, bovine-like creature for a half woman-half fish. That’s like mistaking a cow for a centaur. No. Perhaps it really was a mermaid.

Bret and Jermaine believe; do you?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Going to school on my birthday...

Yesterday was my birthday, and I got a great gift--I got to go cross country schooling with Caesar! As this was both our first official school and our first time off the farm, I was a bit nervous. We had jumped a few of the elementary fences at our farm this summer, but I was eager to go off the property and jump. We went with Megan and her Perch/TB cross, Wyatt. Wy and Caesar are quite the pair--Wyatt dwarfs Caesar! Take a look at their two hind ends on the trailer:

Caesar trailered like a pro and was pretty quiet for the tack up. Once we started walking around the property he got excited and wanted to prance. After 15 minutes of trying to get him to just walk (while baby Wyatt was chill as a cucumber), I got a bit discouraged--how in the heck am I going to be able to jump xc if I can't even walk the course? We did some walking and trotting on a large circle which totally helped to chill him out (duh), and then hopped over a baby log a few times. At that point, I think Caesar realized that indeed he was there to jump and he settled down even more. We had planned on schooling the elementary course which is in a separate enclosed field, but it was being used as a pasture so I had to be brave and do a few beginner novice fences; these are no big deal for Caesar, but I wasn't too sure. It helped that I had Megan "coaching" me and Mike encouraging me (as well as taking photos and videos). We chose 3 jumps that were pretty inviting--a half-coop of sorts, an oxer and double log and rode each a few times. Caesar was a real gentleman, being patient even when I was pulling too much. Obviously we have tons to work on (starting with me trusting him to do his job and not pulling him on the approach), but it was awesome to get out and see what cross country is like! The experience really helped build up my confidence for this phase of eventing. Hooray!

Here are some photos and video (1 and 2) from the day:


the baby log

the coop-ish jump

Mighty Wyatt

Mike sporting my safety vest :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

We jumped!

So this is me cheating at blogging... we had a great ride on the flat yesterday with Caesar showing no signs of lameness, and I decided to tack him up in his jump saddle for my lesson today. It was only our third official jump lesson so there were lots of oopses, but overall, it was awesome. Caesar is really, really, really a talented jumper. But he's forward and gets really strong when I get in his face, which I have a problem with. Despite that, he's patient with me which is why I love him so much! Looking forward to learning more! Hopefully, we'll be doing a little bit of hilltopping and xc schooling on Saturday. More on that later!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The funnies

Kids are funny, like really funny. If you should find yourself feeling a little down, go hang out with a kid; I think working with children ups my quality of life quotient a few points. In my first year of teaching, I remember making a daily list of the silly statements my students shared. Of course, the novelty wears off after reaching the veteran years of one's teaching career (which by Baltimore City standards is the first day of your 3rd year; yikes). Still, I more often than not find myself doing a lot of snickering while at school. Here are a few funny quips heard over the past week, from the mouths of babes:

-upon seeing a group of mounted policeman near our school, two kids approached me (separately) and asked "Was that YOUR horse?" (why, yes, that large grey draft horse is mine; I just happen to allow that nice policeman to ride him on Wednesday afternoons...)

-today while zesting a clementine (sorbet :) I caught my thumb on the microplane and got a decent nick. I announced the accident to my 2nd graders (my frequent saftey lapses in cooking class make for good warnings), and Maggie said "Oh. Does that mean there'll be some thumb zest in the sorbet?" EWWW!

-when having a conversation about cross-pollination, I explained how hybrid crops are developed, and Christopher said "Oh, you mean like a mutt?" Fruit mutts, yum :)

And finally, another funny, but not from a child. Rather, a staunch conservative whose blog I happened upon last night when researching arugula (I know, I know, random). I had forgotten about the right-wing media's attack on the unassuming leafy green until I saw this.

An Obama supporter I am (and a Whole Foods shopper), but that's pretty funny. Hope you had a good laugh today!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The sound of lameness

So I have been a bad blogger of late mostly because I felt like I just tumbled through this week, pushing to the end of each day and then being surprised to find I’d ended up in the next. I woke most mornings from one of those deep sleeps where I can’t remember where I am and what I am supposed to do (no, no, I haven’t been drinking a lot…ha). I also have been carrying a bit of a blogger chip on my shoulder. Part of the reason for starting this blog was to share about my equestrian endeavors. But when I can’t ride, for whatever reason, I tend to allow myself to act like a prune. By that I mean, I get moody. Oh man…

Caesar pulled a shoe on Friday and came up lame; lame he was Saturday through Monday at which point he got a new shoe. He was still lame yesterday, and we’re just a little baffled. The myriad foot issues he’s had since September make me worry that maybe his current farrier isn’t the best fit for him so I’ve spent the past two days trying to decide what to do.

Additionally, the pipe opener we had planned on doing next Saturday was canceled due to impending weekend flooding, and I found out that my acupuncturist will be moving to Oregon in a few shorts months. Bummer. While in “woe is me” mode, I played a little game called “If I didn’t have a horse…” It’s a self-deprecating, self-piteous exercise (note the self-ish theme), but sometimes my mind just goes there. So on my list would be
• A nice fancy car; maybe that cute new Volvo coupe
• Subscription to both a steak of- and wine of the month
• Weekly self-tanning sessions
• Bi-monthly pedicure
• A pair, make that 2 pairs, of Frye boots
• A pair of designer sunglasses
• Yearly trips to Tuscany

Seriously… Okay, so not seriously. I would not join a tanning salon, get frequent pedicures or lavish in uber expensive boots. In fact, I don’t REALLY want any of those things (well, to travel again, yes, I do want that). What I really want is a sound horse. But still somehow I do this exercise from time to time, involuntarily it would seem (yes, I can be quite the pessimist). I think the point is that if I had more time and more money, really I would just want to spend it on horsey things. It’s no fun when your pony is lame.

Alas, Caesar was actually sound-ish today. He was a little off to begin with, but after my trainer hopped on him for a few minutes, he got moving nicely—forward and round. We ended up doing some really nice trot work. The lameness is still a mystery, perhaps he’s being trimmed too short??? I just hope it has made its exit.

Meanwhile, we’ve had amazing weather this week—sunny days and no more snow on the ground—what a gift. I made ice cream in a bag with the kids yesterday; it was great fun. On Tuesday, I turned in my first big assignment for my grad class; I haven’t written a paper in almost 4 years, and it was nice to find that I could pick up pretty much where I left off. Of course, I haven’t gotten my grade back… Hope all is well with you! Promise to write more soon.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Re-educating my legs (and seat and hands)

I still retain a a very juvenile sense of justice from my childhood a major tenant of which is "if you work hard, you should see results". Clearly this isn't the most preposterous belief; in many disciplines this is true. And for much of my life, when I have put in days, months of hard work into something, I have seen positive results. However, with riding I have discovered that hard work does not merit results, rather correct work merits results. I am by no means saying that it does not take hard work to make progress in riding; indeed it does, but it is only perfect practice that makes perfect. You may be saying "well, yea, I knew that", but I don't think I did before pursuing this sport.

Before I began learning about and practicing dressage, I thought it was boring; I now have the utmost respect and awe for any rider who pursues dressage. It's ridiculously hard and the skills it requires seem almost mysterious (how did she get that movement from that almost invisible adjustment of her hip?). In my pursuit to ride correctly, I am having to re-educate my body, especially my legs, seat and hands. Those who ride dressage know this all too well. Currently I communicate with my legs through harsh thumps (oh, the horror) especially when I want Caesar to move off my left leg. It goes something like this--he pushes his left shoulder in, or out as it may be, I get tense and frustrated and go THUMP, THUMP, THUMP with my left leg. He doesn't like this, but he's got such a good heart that he tolerates it, trusting that I am really saying something he needs to hear. Oh, man, it can be so bad! My hands are similar--I pull to slow his tempo, I pull to turn him, I pull to push him off my outside leg (all of which should be accomplished by seat and leg).

So today when I got particularly frustrated by his tendency to fall to the left, I went maniac with my hands and legs for a bit; yea, another one of my beliefs still lagging from childhood seems to be "if I get frustrated enough, it will fix the problem". Ha! Of course not, especially with horses! Finally, I removed my stirrups and rode for 30 minutes without them, just focusing on using soft aides from the seat, leg and hands. Eventually, Caesar got nice and forward and round, happy really, like "I get this." The last 20 minutes saw good trot work and for the most part he was not leaning to the left, and if he began to, responded to my firm press and release (rather than thumping). Despite the frustration, I love rides like this, where I really begin to feel what I am supposed to feel, where what I have learned through lessons and reading actually clicks. It's really all about breaking bad habits, re-learning how to use my seat, legs, and hands (and everything else in between). Days like this I am taking what I know cognitively and applying it biomechanically. Never having seriously practiced a sport, I find this particularly refreshing. In riding, I feel the ah-has moments are greater than in other sports because it's not just you saying Ah-ha; it's your noble steed chiming in as well.

Monday, March 1, 2010

What's a widget?

Thanks to Abby for sharing her scrolling gadget thingy (see below Caesar's photos); I love the idea of keeping a log of my riding exercises. Thanks, Abby!

On that note, I struggled to set up the "easy" feature; really, it wasn't hard in the end, but all the tech talk (widget, scrollbox, widget id, not to mention all the /backskin..strange code/ /are you sure you are savvy enough to blog? code/) turned me in circles for a bit. This after temporarily loosing videos and photos on my camera yesterday and spending 3 hours today transcribing a 25 minute video of my teaching after I couldn't figure out how to work InqScribe. To technology I say "<<<624f0xckBLURG!BLURG!BLURG!492k0231pbx>>>".

FYI: Jake the bachelor just chose the WRONG girl! Ewww! (and double ewww to the fact that I have been watching this show. Ha!)