March 17, 2014

Shadows is here!

In medias res

 

Let me see, where were we?  Well, where was I . . .

I still have a dead car.  I rang up the garage this afternoon and most of the parts have arrived . . . but not all of them.  Of course.  This is how it goes.  The flusterdamitter is still en route from Enceladus* and won’t be here till Wednesday.  Or Thursday.  Whimper.

The hellpack and I stream** up and down main street on foot, pitter patter pitter patter, to and from the mews.***  I am poised to try to rent a car if Peter wants me to . . . but I’m not going to unless he does.  The worst of the week is over:  I’ve already missed my singing lesson.

And I have a definitively dead washing machine.  The repairman’s wife, who is also his secretary and office manager, rang back today to say that the necessary part is obsolete.  Sigh.  Meanwhile I had had a look on line for washing machines and there aren’t any that say HAS EXTRA-STRENGTH FILTER.†  CAN STAND UP TO THREE HAIRY DOGS.  I have asked Mrs Repairman to ask her husband if he can recommend one.  Meanwhile when I contemplate the likelihood of my carrying large knapsacks of dirty/clean laundry up and down main street in the near future the idea of a rental car starts to look pretty good.

* * *

* They relocated the factory because those cold water jets make cooling all that molten steel^ a snap.  Also native labour is cheap.

^ As if they made cars out of steel any more.  HAhahahahahahahahaha.  But Enceladus’ surface contains substantial deposits of rmmfglorple, which makes really great Car Plastic.

** New Arcadia is mostly not streaming any more, but down by the river there are great chunks of the path missing where the water has undermined it till it collapsed.  There’s at least one spot where you have to leap, and for some reason you don’t see as many pushchairs^ on that path as you used to.  The river is still really high all along its length and at the most exciting point it’s broken up through actual paving slabs, where an overstressed tributary is joining the main flow and it’s gushing out across the path and torrenting down the little hill built over the confluence.  It’s strong enough to wash away small children and unwary dogs, and the hellterror, who is a bit of a delicate flower for a bullie, doesn’t like it much.  You might have thought legs that short couldn’t do a decent passage^^, but you’d be wrong.  But the look I get nearly burns through denim.

The dog-encounter stories just keep on however, and we’re trapped in town at present.  Saw what is possibly the nastiest of our local dogs again a few days ago—off lead of course—this thing is totally known to be dog aggressive.  I was out with Pav, fortunately, not the hellhounds, saw dog and murder-worthy owner.  No-jury-would-convict-me owner looked at us, glanced around for his vicious off lead brute . . . and then kept on coming!  ARRRRRRRRRRGH!  —Pav and I crossed the road.

My most recent meltdown, however, was a day or two before that.  I’m not the only near relation with dogs at the mews.  We’ve had mostly minor encounters with the worst offenders but one of these is a border collie type—it’s either a crossbred or a very badly bred border collie—who is the kind of aggressive-manic that gives border collies a bad name^^^.  It’s frequently loose, of course.  Arrrrrrgh.  The other day Pav and I were coming back from our afternoon hurtle, came through the gate, and there was that criminally idiot owner surrounded by her three dogs, one harmless Lab, one semi-harmless Lab . . . and this border collie.  To give her what little credit she’s due, she saw us and did put them all on lead, and they trailed her across the drive and into the big garden that belongs to her father/mother/uncle/halfsister/secondcousintwiceremoved . . . and then she deliberately dropped the leads.

And as Pav and I walked past the wide, entirely open mouth of that garden, the border collie just went for us—trailing its useless lead.  I had time to pick Pav up—just.  The no-jury-would-convict-me-for-this-one-either is screaming her head off and the dog is, of course, ignoring her.  It’s growling and snapping and making little leaps at Pav, who is comfortably folded up chest-high in my arms~ and even allowing for the situation this is a mean looking dog.  It ran away as its owner came after it—she didn’t say a word to me of course—and have I mentioned that a lot of what used to be the parkland around the Big Pink Blot has sheep on it?

But we were even more of a draw than the sheep.  Once it had lost its owner it came after us again.  It was not willing, fortunately, to attack a human, so we strolled the rest of the way back to Peter’s—I’m not quite up to walking briskly clutching thirty pounds of hellterror awkwardly to my chest~~ —with it circling and snarling. . . .

And there’s not a thing I can do about it, not really.  The police don’t care.  The dog warden has most of southern England to patrol.  And the family the idiot is visiting . . . well, let’s simplify the politics of cooperative ownership and say they have seniority.  Which I assume is why no one else has ever complained . . . about the dog crap that loose unsupervised dogs tend to leave about the place, for example.

::is beyond words:: ~~~

^ Strollers

^^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqaQ6SnqAtI

^^^ I know that Cocker spaniels are supposed to be the top of the bitey dogs list, but I and several generations of my dogs have been nipped by far more border collies.  It’s not frelling all herding instinct.

~ There are advantages to the little short legs.  She weighs nearly twice what Hazel did, but Hazel was a whippet with legs that went on and on.  Upon similar occasions it would have been better if I could have hung her around my neck, but there was never quite time.

~~ The funny thing, if I’d been in a mood to appreciate it, is how laid back Pav was about the whole thing.  Maybe because she was already out of reach by the time the marauder arrived?  But she peered down with interest and no alarm whatsoever.  At least having her relaxed made her easier to hang onto.  She can be quite challenging in this regard when she’s in LEMME AT ’EM mode.

~~~ Which is a bad thing in a professional writer.

*** During the day we go down to the mews in shifts—I was bringing Pav down at lunchtime when we met Mr Notorious Evil Ratbag—but we do all go home collectively after midnight.  Speaking of challenging, trying to pick up crap when you have not merely three leads to deal with but a heavy knapsack throwing your blasted balance off . . . and last night Pav’s extending-lead spring failed.  I’m a little amazed we all got home in one piece.  There may have been language.

† Preferably one that does not exist suspended in a reservoir of dirty water two inches from the floor which you have to bail out spoonful by spoonful because you can’t get a container of any size under the frelling hatch.

Are you sure it’s not Friday the 13th?

 

I have a DEAD CAR.

I have a DEAD WASHING MACHINE.

I am SUPPOSED TO BE STREET PASTORING TONIGHT*, but I can’t, because I have a DEAD CAR.  This means I’ve missed TWO MONTHS IN A ROW.**

I probably won’t get Wolfgang back till the end of next week . . . which among other things means I WILL MISS MY VOICE LESSON ON MONDAY.***

I will also MISS MY MONKS TOMORROW NIGHT.†

And the DEAD CAR means I have no way to schlep my dirty laundry to Peter’s washing machine—and New Arcadia is way too small for a Laundromat, aside from the question of how many machines one person with three hairy dogs can blow up in a single application.††

AND I—finally—bought a new phone answering machine†††.  Which I spent two hours over this afternoon, trying to figure out how to make the sucker work.  I HATE TECHNOLOGY.‡  This object is such a piece of rubbish in so many ways.  You have 1,000,000,000,000 frelling menus of obscure acronyms and impenetrable icons . . . and an ‘instruction book’ that fails to instruct.  For example:  it keeps saying, you press this little arrow till you get the listing you want, and then you hit ‘okay’.  IT NEVER TELLS YOU WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO FIND THE OKAY, AND OKAY DOESN’T APPEAR UNTIL YOU’VE DONE SOMETHING RIGHT ALREADY WHICH YOU WON’T HAVE BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.  Frelling icons are frelling Rorschach blots, every one of them meaning:  YOU’RE TOTALLY SCREWED HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.‡‡

I think I finally got the date and time set up‡‡‡ and a basic message recorded . . . although that I am speaking through clenched teeth is pretty obvious.  Leave.  A.  Message.  After.  The.  Beep.   I have no idea what most of the superfluous crap on all those menus is . . . but this frzzzzzblggggng thing has only TWO ringtones, both of them nasty.  And this thing cost money!  It cost real money!  I’ve been putting off buying a new phone machine because BT stopped making the cut-rate plastic toy model that I used to use, which was not a total loss because they were SO cruddy they only lasted about a year before disintegrating like one of those cornstarch shopping bags . . . but they were simple.  I could use one.  Mind you, if you’re asking, I’d say they were overspecified too:  all I want is something I can record my voice on, so people ringing me know they’ve got my phone number—among my many, many pet hates is robot-voice answering machines so you have no idea if you’ve reached the right person/number or not—and that will record any messages.  I don’t want a phone machine that can make hollandaise sauce and tutor me in Russian and mechanical engineering!  I ONLY WANT TO RECORD MESSAGES, PLAY THEM BACK, AND THEN ERASE THEM.

. . . And now I have to shoulder my heavy knapsack§ and hike home . . . with three hellcritters gambolling delightedly in my wake.§§

* * *

* So this entry was supposed to be a stub.  It may yet be when a crevasse opens at my feet and the table falls into the centre of the earth, which would be about par for this day’s course.  I may or may not catch the laptop before it disappears forever, but my four knitting books from the library, at present lying on the table, will be goners.  Even knitting books are out to get me:  there is ONE pattern out of all FOUR of them that I can imagine knitting, and this includes two books by a designer I usually like.^

^ There’s also a yarn sale going on on a Web Site Near You where one of the listings is for £17 skeins of luxury yarn . . . at eight pence off the usual price.  Be still my heart.

** Last month was The Night of the Tempestuous Tempest, when the cops were telling us to stay home unless we HAD to be out.  And I was looking at all the raging torrents that used to be roads and gardens and sitting rooms and so on and thought, staying home, above the flood line, that’s a good idea.

*** I may end up hiring a car—NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO—but not till I’ve talked to the garage again on Monday, which will be too late for my lesson.  They’re ordering parts tomorrow, so some of my fate is riding on whether the gloppendorkenflurgetruder^ arrives on Monday.

^ Well, Wolfgang is German.

† Buckminster thinks he can find me a ride to St Margaret’s Sunday evening.  He hasn’t said anything about ‘if you promise not to sing’.^

^ I will miss my monks worse.  I like their music better.

†† I think I’ve told you that the hellterror is an astonishing producer of loose hair.  No wonder she eats so much.  Has to keep her strength up for all that intensive fur growing.

††† Delivered by an unusually delightful carrier, who put a postcard through my door after a failed first attempt, saying that they would try again the next day, any time from seven a.m. to six p.m., and upon a third failure the item would be returned to the warehouse and I would be issued a refund.  WHAT?  How does the seller stay in business with a system like that?  And as I’ve said—often—before, any blasted carrier who puts a postcard through my door saying they tried to leave my package with a neighbour is either lying or terminally lazy.  My neighbours are all either retired or work from home.

As it happens I was waiting in, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the washing-machine man—the appointment was for ‘after nine’.  Well, it was certainly after nine:  in fact it was after noon—and I was therefore available at 11:45 when Delivery Attempt #2 happened—and I ran after him and pulled him down and snatched my parcel away from him before he could get back to his truck and lock the doors. . . . I should have let him keep it.

‡ The favour is, of course, mutual.

‡‡ I am reminded of the old joke which I’ve seen somewhere very recently, did someone post it on the forum?  Having no car and no washing machine is having an unfortunate suppressive effect on my brain.  So, this shrink shows a patient a Rorschach blot and says, what do you see?  And the patient says, a man and a woman making love.  The shrink shows the patient another blot and the patient says, that’s a man and a man really getting it on.  And looking at the third blot the patient says, and that’s two women having a very, very hot time.  The shrink says, I see that you are obsessed with sex.  The patient says in possibly justifiable outrage, that’s rich, coming from you.  You’re the one with all the dirty pictures.

‡‡‡ Which I will have to reset every time there is a power outage, and we have brief, settings-blowing power outages kind of a lot.  My old el frelling cheapo phone machine, you put a BATTERY in it and it HELD its settings through power cuts.

§ Having seriously damaged my back and shoulders hauling dog food in the other direction

§§ This is a rant for another day, but I’ve basically given up taking all three of them out together—the Off Lead Dog problem is too severe, and I’m at just too much of a disadvantage with three of my own.  The only time I’ll risk it is after midnight, like now. . . .

Yurk. Also, from the ridiculous to the sublime

 

The yurk part:  experiments in raising my activity level to previous modest heights are proving unsuccessful, or at least inspiring undesirable repercussions.  Which is to say I have barely got the hellpack hurtled today, and possibly in slo-mo, I’m too whacked to be sure of what my legs have been doing, but Pav can create her own alternate realities, and hucklebutts rather well on her extending lead, given the absence of large inconveniently-placed trees.  And the hellhounds are, after all, well into middle age, and are happy to saunter along, looking elegant and fabulous, with a brief sprint when no one is looking but me.

The rest is a daze.*  And this one. Word. After. Another. doohickey, whatsit, blog is just beyond me tonight.**

But I don’t want to leave you entirely without frivolous reading material.  So here’s the ridiculous part:

http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/02/the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-tolkien/

B_twin, knowing my feelings about Peter Jackson***, sent this to me several weeks ago and I laughed and laughed and saved the address so I could hang it on the blog some day† and today is the day.  Some of you’ll have already seen it . . . but there are paragraphs definitely worth revisiting.

The sublime part:  http://www.diegrossestille.de/english/

Aloysius loaned me the DVD . . . oh, months ago.  Probably months and months.  I watched it once fairly quickly but really—even after you’ve watched all the extra bits and clips—it raises more questions than it answers so I wanted to watch it again before I gave it back . . . and that plan of a plan went on kind of a while.  Poor Aloysius finally asked for its return so I hastily rewatched it right around the time B_twin sent me the SMAUG review . . . and these two so clearly belong together.††  You know.  Ridiculous.  Sublime.

The SILENCE web site is a little obscure but keep clicking.  The film is a documentary about a ‘closed’ Carthusian monastery and it’s . . . well, it’s amazing.  I didn’t, myself, ever forget I was watching a film—I’m a trifle resistant to arty films and this one has AAAAAAAART stamped on every frame, and the suggested use of it as a meditation aid I’m like, what?—but the mixture as demonstrated in these monks’ lives of the spiritual and the practical, the outer and inner, the ordinary and extraordinary, was lovely and moving.  And the landscape is spectacular.  Although I’m glad I don’t live there, aside from the whole no-talking thing.

* * *

* There was a lot of lap time today.  This is now the second and third generation of critters to think that ME is a great invention.

** Also I need to claw myself together to go to my monks tomorrow night.

*** The brief polite version is that I thought THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING was a mostly honourable failure, I hated TWO TOWERS and never saw RETURN OF THE KING.  There was never any way in any universe similar or dissimilar to this one that I was going to see what smashed and broken melee he was going to make of THE HOBBIT.

† Preferably before the third film comes out, but greatness, in reviewing as in everything, is timeless.

†† I am sick.  Yes, I know.

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.

Horse stories

Bratsche

The nice thing about dressage is that there’s LOTS you can do without needing to sit the trot; so if that happens to be a problem, you can still do a ton without dealing with it. . . . your comfort will also probably vary a lot from horse to horse since different horses’ gaits feel so different.

There’s pretty much always something you can do with dressage, given that you have a good trainer, a sound horse, and can get yourself into the saddle.  One of the ironies in this skill as in so many is that sometimes what you need is precisely the skill you haven’t got yet:  I know I’ve told this blog before that my great breakthrough about sitting the trot was when I realised it was my stomach muscles, not my back or my seat, that were crucial—at which point my back stopped bothering me.  But I don’t think it would have done me much good to be told that I would sit the trot with my stomach when I was first starting to learn;  I had to be mostly there already and needing only the final thud over the line.*  The really counterintuitive thing for me was the way then that those frelling gigantic warmblood trots** became if not precisely easy, then comprehensible . . . and thrilling.

My trainer says jumping is pretty much just dressage where someone left some jumps in the way. . . .  That makes some sense to me, but I’m sure it will feel VERY different at least sometimes if I do try some jumping eventually. . . .

But the bottom line about dressage is that it’s about making you and your horse and particularly you-and-your-horse happier, more supple, better balanced and more flexible about anything and everything . . . so jumping is dressage where someone left fences in the way:  dressage is the bottom line, whether you call it ‘dressage’ or not.  This was really making some good sense with Connie . . . siiiiiiiiigh. . . .  and Jenny was a show jumper.***  Jumping was her first love and the years she had suitable horses she even earned money at it.  But she absolutely believed that dressage was the necessary basis, for show jumping or anything else.  Although she was funny about some of dressage’s little foibles.  The point of show dressage is that the horse does exactly what you tell it to† when you tell it to.  The last thing I want, Jenny would say, is some animal that waits for me to tell it to perform a flying change.  And of course a good show jumper is figuring out the next fence as soon as the rider has settled on their line so it knows where it’s going—which may be about half a stride to spare, depending on the course, so it needs to be able to make some of its own decisions.  Connie had lovely flying changes—not that I was necessarily in the right place at the right time, riding her, either to ask her or to let her do them.

. . . I am SO spoiled! I would never in my wildest dreams have thought I could have a guy as great as him! . . . . It does mean, however, that the kind of horse I’ll be wanting for my next one (when Amore can’t be ridden any more — hopefully many years from now) is going to be much different than if my first horse had been a back-yard mutt (so to speak)

Well, add me to the forum chorus of JEEEEAAAAAAAAALOUS.  But back-yard mutts can surprise you.  The woman who first taught me dressage—and totally did my head in by proving I could learn to ride††—and who had no money, did wonders with a series of back-yard mutts.  I learnt the extended trot on her first success story, one of those ‘Quarter Horses’ that has about as much QH bloodline as I do, but they arrive on the East Coast in gigantic truckloads for auction, and the paperwork says ‘QH’ I suppose because they’re from Out West Somewhere and the paperwork has to say something.  He had a back as long as a city block and his shoulders and his pasterns were perfectly upright (speaking of the comfort/discomfort of sitting to certain horses’ trots) and he had no business ever so much as coming on the bit and getting his hocks under him . . . but he did it, with Grace training him.  It was pretty funny really:  his back accordioned about six feet as he came on the bit.  Suddenly he was (almost) a normal-looking horse.  And his extended trot was amazing.

She had another horse, a mare, she’d (also) got cheap, because she’d broken a foreleg as a yearling and it hadn’t set quite right, and the foot turned out.  Eh, she’ll never amount to anything with that leg;  and furthermore, as she grew up, her rear end grew more than her front, so she was that disastrous creature, a horse who is ‘higher behind than before’ and will spend its life running downhill.  And of course never ever be capable of coming on the bit and getting her hocks under her.

You can see where this is going.  The mare loved working and couldn’t wait for Grace to ask her to do something.†††  Grace competed her in the New England finals at third or fourth level . . . and I swear every last judge Grace rode for, from her first training show, hissed through his/her teeth and said that the mare would never go any farther because of her conformation and she’d never stay sound on that leg.  She retired sound at, I think, sixteen;  she had her third and last foal two years later. ‡

And of course my hellhounds are back-yard mutts. . . .

* * *

* Your mileage may vary.  I was a very slow learner about riding as about so many things, although some of that was my going into it with the conviction that I was clumsy and stupid and wouldn’t be able to learn.  Self confidence?  What would that be exactly?

** I don’t know if this is true across the warmblood spectrum—and I’m not going to spend the next frelling hour googling my way through a lot of horse sites, I want to sing tonight—but a lot of warmblood breeding was to produce carriage horses where gigantic sit-at-your-pelvis’-peril trots were a total plus^.  The dressage thing under saddle came later.

^ Although I don’t know what the postilions may have thought.  In my admittedly limited experience posting to an eighteen-hand warmblood powering over the landscape is even less possible than sitting.

*** Connie was the last horse I rode regularly, before the ME objected.  And Jenny was her owner and my teacher.

† Because you and your horse are a PARTNERSHIP.  A good horse is never a thousand-pound machine that does the same precise thing every time you flip a lever.  I’ve never ridden a true ‘push button’ horse but I’ve ridden several excellent schoolmasters, and they have their ways of getting their point across by doing what you told them, not what you wanted.  While your human teacher, standing in the middle of the ring, tries not to laugh.

†† I’d been mostly taught by riders with natural talent who had no idea what to do with someone like me.  Grace was herself not naturally talented in that way;  she’d worked for her horse skills and had gazillions of approaches to any given horse/rider situation . . . and endless patience.  We’ve lost touch, but I hope she’s healthy and thriving, wherever she is.

††† That mare was one of my schoolmasters.  And she was . . . a character.  Her desire to do stuff was genuine, and she’d try till she exploded—but she loved working because she had a fantastic trainer.  She could have been a serious handful for the wrong person—for someone who didn’t allow her to be herself.  She didn’t suffer fools gladly, and it was a pretty great compliment that Grace let me ride her.

‡ The downside of this story is that she wasn’t going to get any farther, not because she couldn’t but because she was a back-yard mutt, half thoroughbred, half Heinz 57 and in show dressage, it matters.  If a Shetland pony can heave itself over the fences clean in an open jumping class when nobody else has, it’s won.  If a Shetland pony does every figure in a Prix St Georges dressage test perfectly, it’s still going to lose to the eighteen-hand warmblood who is perhaps only 98% perfect but is so beautiful you could cry.  And Grace’s lovely mare looked like exactly what she was—TB/mutt—and this was also happening right when the dressage fashion was turning away from TBs to warmbloods.

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