March 6, 2014

Horses. And singing.

 

Bratsche

But back-yard mutts can surprise you. The woman who first taught me dressage . . . did wonders with a series of back-yard mutts.

I’m glad to hear that on a couple different levels. One is that some day I will need to look for another horse for myself, and it’s good to have those stories tucked in my memory to encourage me to look at “any” horse. . . .

Yes—with those quotation marks firmly in place.  I was trying to think of what I would say you must absolutely look for in a horse—four sound legs is always a good place to start, and while Grace’s mare always was sound, no, you know, sane person would have risked her, with that crooked leg.  In Grace’s defense she was very experienced as well as knew the mare from a foal, had done most of her Heinz 57 mum’s training and was a friend of the original owner who as I recall insisted she’d always have her back as a pasture ornament if she broke down.

I’d say the bottom line non-negotiable in a horse for ordinary—um, rider mutts—like you and me is a kind eye, very visible, I might add, in the photos of Amore.  Having established the eye you want something who likes its work—which is a little harder to ascertain in the usual for-sale try-out, but that’s where your secret weapon, Rachel, is deploying herself on your behalf.  Rachel will know!

The second reason I’m glad to hear that is because of a big change that’s coming to our barn…it’s time to get my girls their own horse. . . .They are OVER THE MOON about this, naturally!

Snork.  Naturally.  When are you going to get your husband on a horse?

 . . . we can get whatever horse is the best fit for us and worry about getting a next step horse for the girls later. Another thing I love about my trainer is that she is happy to work with ANY kind of horse, which is a great attitude to be working with.

It’s really the only attitude to be working with.  Yaaaaay for Rachel.

So, wish me luck with finding my next amazing horse, whoever it will be!

GOOD LUCK.

And if there’s a good story attached to it, I’ll see if Robin wants another horse guest post.

YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?  ROBIN ALWAYS WANTS ANOTHER GUEST POST.  IF IT’S ABOUT FABULOUS HORSES, SO MUCH THE BETTER.

I’m still assuming—by not thinking about it too clearly—that I’ll ride again some day, but I admit I don’t know how or under what circumstances.  The problem is that I went over the casual-hack line decades ago.  I don’t want to have the occasional amble on horseback over the countryside, even this countryside*, I want to have a relationship with a specific horse, and contribute to its quality of life, well-being and training as it contributes to mine.  And that kind of relationship takes an investment of physical energy I simply haven’t got.

But I still think in horsy terms.  My MGB, who is still in the garage at the cottage while I dork around endlessly about selling her, was my little cream-coloured mare from the moment I set eyes on her—the old-car garage who found her for me had actually brought her in from Dorset or Lithuania or something.  I’m pretty sure describing her as such still exists on the web site somewhere—and shortly after I’d put that bit up I received a Very Huffy email from a preteen girl who had a horse telling me, more or less, that she had Lost All Respect for me for preferring a car.  It wasn’t a question of preference, it was a question of bank balance.

And, about a year later, it began to be a question of ME.  Feh.  But there are other things.  I totally identify bell ringing as a partnership with a live creature with a mind of its own at the other end of a rope/rein.  One of the tangential pleasures of Nadia as a voice teacher is that she rides.**  I’m not one of her, cough-cough, better students, but I’m easy to get stuff across to, first because I have more imagination than is good for me, and if Nadia tells me to close my eyes and become a tree, I close my eyes and become a tree. . . . And second because I’m another horse crazy and she can tell me to get my weight off my forehand and my hocks under me.

Possibly on account of Bratsche’s horse story I’ve been thinking about singing in horsy terms even more than usual.  But I’ve mentioned here that for some time now my voice has begun to feel a lot like another critter, some live thing that is my responsibility, that needs kindness and exercise and attention.  Gleep.  It no longer feels like my voice—where is all that NOISE coming from??—and ‘I’ feel overhorsed.  I don’t know what I was expecting when I got into this voice-lesson shtick but I was not expecting this disconcerting mixture of strength and lack of control.   Horsy metaphor:  when my voice is warm and full and open I can’t frelling do anything with it, and it reminds me rather a lot of the four-year-old warmblood I exercised for a while many years ago.  Four years old can be pretty young in a big horse.  This one had barely been backed and had everything to learn, including how to make his legs function in an orderly sequence.  Some of you will know about teaching a young horse to canter under saddle and how all over the landscape they can be as they try to figure out how to perform this complex task.  This boy was a sweetie—speaking of the kind eye—and totally willing to try, but oh my.  Mostly we trotted, which is, of course, what you do with a horse that can’t canter yet.  The more stable and rhythmic the trot, the more possible the canter.  But he had one of those gigantic warmblood trots as well as being a loose cannon.  Actually he was a lot of fun and I hope he grew up to make some nice human rider very happy.  But at the time trying to enable him to move in a straight line or a gentle curve even at the trot . . . is a lot like me trying to carry a tune now when my voice is up and running.  If I shut down and go all control-freak on myself I can hold that tune, no problem, as I’ve been able to carry a tune fairly reliably all my life . . . but it’s not a sound quality you want to encourage.  As soon as you—or more often, Nadia—wakes up my inner young warmblood . . . I’m all over the planet, tune-wise.  Arrrrgh.  One of the ironies is that at the moment I sing worse for Nadia than I do at home—because she can get the voice out of me whereupon I go to pieces.  ARRRRRGH.

Another horsy metaphor:  I was singing some poor innocent song this Monday at my lesson, soared up to my Big Note and . . . lost my bottle and went flat.  I said to Nadia afterward in frustration, this is exactly like coming up to a biggish fence on a horse you know can do it backwards and if you put it up another foot, and at the last minute you bottle out and sit back on her—and she raps it with her feet and brings a rail down.  ARRRRRRRGH.

I’m still hoping I’m going to grow up to make some nice human rider very happy.

* * *

* Which at the moment is eyebrow-deep in mud anyway.

** She was a bit of a hot shot in her youth.  It wouldn’t surprise me if she dusted off her hot-shot status once her own kids are a little older.

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