Saturday, January 30, 2010

In which we celebrate Saturday Stories: a little wisdom tale

Here's a sweet little tale your mom wishes you knew. Maybe you should call her and share the story? Or maybe there's a kid you know who needs to hear it? Go ahead. I'll leave it right here for you. --A

Choosing a Wife
A man wanted his son to choose a wise, good, and kind wife.

The man told his son to give this question to any woman he might want in his life:
"If you had a big fish, how could you feed your family as long as possible?”

The young man travelled all over the country, asking this question to all the women that he met.

One woman said that she would feed the fish only to the adults in the family, and let the children suck on the bones.

Another woman said that she would make soup of the fish, and store the soup in a big pot in the frozen river with rocks on top to keep the bears away.

Yet another woman proposed to smoke the fish to preserve it through the winter so that her family could eat a bite of fish for many weeks.

Many women were asked the question, and each had a different answer.

But none of the answers seemed quite right to the young man.

Finally, the young man returned home, and spoke with the girl who had grown up next door to his own house. He realized that, in his haste to find a wife, he had not asked the question of the woman closest to home!

He asked her the question:
“If you had a big fish, how could you feed your family as long as possible?”

The girl said, "First I would cook the fish with many vegetables to make a great deal of food. Then I would give some to my relatives, some to my neighbors, and some to my friends.

"Then when THEY had a big fish, they would bring some to share with me. So it would be that one big fish would feed my family for a long, long time."

This was the right answer.

So those two married and lived happily ever after.

Friday, January 29, 2010

In which there are unusual--but distinct--indications of spring

It's that time of year again...
Doctor Sarah Metcalf is back in town with her drills and sanders and stuff.
Fiddle has a very pretty "movie star" smile when Dr. Sarah is all done. Because we have the horses' teeth done every year, our cost is actually going down.
There aren't many equine appointments that do that anymore, but regular dentistry is proving to be a cost-saver for us, as we are able to clear off any points, hooks, and ramp in their teeth before there is any pain or injury.
The first time Dr. Sarah came out to treat the horses, she grabbed my arm and shoved it into the (speculumed) open mouth of a 14-year-old mare. "Feel the points," she said, guiding my fingers. "Feel the hooks. Feel the ulcers in her mouth. We can get rid of all that with yearly appointments."
She is right: each appointment this year took only 40 minutes, and although both mares needed to have some maintenance work to correct some points and hooks, there was nothing serious in either mouth, and no ulcers.

Fiddle is a cheap date. Despite her size, less than a full dose of sedative has her literally on her lips.

Hana needs to floss more. Don't all dentists say that?
The horse trailer is rigged out as a complete equine dental office, with special supports and power cords for all the equipment.
Now the horses have pretty smiles, and they are good to go for another year.
Inside the house, there is another sign of spring: the dogs are shedding. Erk.
This pile of fluff came off of one shetland sheepdog. I'm pretty sure that there's enough fur here to clothe another entire dog, but the dog who shed out all this stuff still seems very fluffy.
Puzzle takes fluff seriously. He's always grooming the dogs, especially Luna. When he saw the pile of fur on the floor, he set to work on it.

I had to open a can of tuna to get him away from the pile of fluff long enough to scoop it into a garbage bag. Are all kitties this obsessive? Or is this cat just special?
With the dentistry done and the dogs shedding, spring must be just around the corner. Right? I can hardly wait!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

In which an endurance movie might be good...or really, really bad

This is one of those, "could be good news, could be bad news" situations:

Somebody (no, we don't have names yet) wants to make a feature film about endurance riding. The goal is to film on location here in the Pacific Northwest in July or August this summer. Production plans include setting up a ridecamp populated by local endurance riders and their horses, rigs and crews, and filming action in the vetcheck and on the trail.

So far, not bad news. Possibly even good news. The sport can always use good new recruits, and a movie might be a good way to "spread the gospel" about riding long distances on horseback.

I remember the huge influx of karate students at local martial arts academies in the 1980's, when this movie was released:

At the time of this film, I was a karate student in an Okinawin-style dojo. We were swamped with new fact, we had enough new people joining the school that we were able to afford a new roof for the building that year. New recruits can be a good thing!

Plus, there's the marketing opportunities. I think we all remember this movie:
...and I think that most of us also remember the boom in sales of Australian-style drover raincoats that resulted from watching those riders flap through rainstorms and rivers with their horses, emerging dry and sexy on the far side.To this day, I no longer have to order a drover coat from Drizabone in Australia--my local feed store stocks them. Product placement can be a very useful thing. Horse folks who watch a movie about endurance riders might just start buying biothane and helmets--and thus, indirectly support the sport by supporting our vendors.

The bad news? Because there is some, of course.

* The plot appears to have been written for an after-school special, complete with utterly predictable good guys, bad guys, revenge and redemption. In fact, it's the same plot as The Karate Kid, but with horses. Juvenile, simplistic, and not very interesting. There is also a strong implication, as in Karate Kid, that skill, training, education, and years of practice are not necessary to win. All you really need to win is a strong will to beat the bad guy and a pretty girl at the finish line.

In real life, of course, one of our "Golden Years" riders like Mona Thacker or Julie Suhr would beat the tailfeathers off these yabbos, and she would be back in camp and showered and shiny by the time they made it to the finish line--assuming that their need for vengence didn't lead them to override their horses early in the day and be pulled from competition before the 45-mile mark.

* The writers thus far seem stuck on the idea of a 200-mile, two-day race. This makes no sense, and is truly the major tripping-point for endurance riders. There were such races in the Pacific Northwest in the early days of endurance, as mentioned by Lew Hollander in his landmark book Endurance Riding: from beginning to winning.

However, by the time the American Endurance Rides Conference was organized in 1972, rides were limited to 100 miles in 24 hours with mandatory vet checkpoints along the way. 100 miles is now regarded as the "outer limit" for a single-day humane riding. If the producers ever read this post, my single point of advice to them is to make their fictional ride a single-day 100, or even a 5-day 250-miler. That one change will break down most of the resistance thrown up by endurance riders who know and care about the sport as it actually exists in the real world.

* The two main characters are going to be the primary contenders in this endurance ride, although both seem to be newcomers to endurance competition. The lead character's wife was an endurance rider before she was horribly killed by indirect action of the badguy. So now the surviving spouse is going to get on her horse and take up where she left off? I'm pretty sure that even a really good rider couldn't just grab Merlin away from Sue Nance and go win a ride.

There's a major disconnect here that needs to be addressed: an endurance ride is a competition of the horse and rider team against the trail. Horses aren't like motorcycles, and they are not interchangable. In most cases, a good rider has travelled hundreds (thousands!) of training miles with the horse before entering into a competition. Of course, this is a movie, not real life. But still.

* The villain in the film sabotages other horses and riders along the trail in order to win the ride. Apparently, that's how you know he's a villain, and not an endurance rider. Endurance riders can, will, and frequently have sacrificed their own win or placing in a ride to help another rider who needs help. It's not a requirement, but it is a strongly-held expectation in the group. I know that many local riders are distressed at the implication that people might watch this movie and think that this behavior is normal and acceptable.

* The protagonist is a deeply-depressed man who wants to win a bet against his age-old rival, and in doing so prevent the rival from making heaps of money by clear-cut logging the beautiful, poetic, soul-healing forest. (for new readers: that is sarcasm in the sentence right there).

Clear-cutting is not the way to harvest trees in order to maintain the health and beauty of the ecosystem. However, here in a logging-dependent region, we don't place bets on a horse race to settle land-use rights. We use the legal court system. It's kind of a "grown-up" way to solve problems, but it seems to work pretty well for us. It doesn't make for dramatic cinematography, though. Again, this is a movie and not real life.

So, now what? Several of our regional riders have written to the production company, and gotten back a poorly-written, all-caps email reply. As a group, we are not impressed (for new readers: that is irony in the sentence right there).

This project has potential to be a good film, with a strong story and an accurate portrayal of "extreme" distance riding. It wouldn't need a lot of changes to make it better.

It does need some changes, however, or the finished product will be so pathetic that endurance riders will never have to worry about it portraying us inaccurately because nobody will ever watch it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

In which we attend the annual convention and get some good loot

"The primary purpose of the annual convention of the Pacific Northwest Endurance Rides, held this year in Portland Oregon, is education." --Bev Ryan, immediate past-prez, PNER.

Uh-huh. Right. Whatever you say, Bev.

Sure, there are some great clinics, and some excellent learning opportunities for members of the organization. But learning isn't the primary reason that most of us show up at the convention.

We go there to shop.
Used tack, new tack, horse equipment, corral panels, and even some beautiful artwork created by my talented friend Sky -- you can shop for just about anything related to horses and riders at the PNER convention. It's a challenge for me to stay in budget at this event, but I managed. Well, mostly.You do have to try stuff on to make sure it fits, Sky, but I'm pretty sure that those items are supposed to go on Cricket's head, not yours.
PNER is the regional organization of endurance riders, vets, and ride managers for Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, and British Columbia.

Once each year we hose the mud and dust off of ourselves and spend a weekend in some city hotel, talking, drinking, dancing, shopping, and catching up on all the news as we gear up for the next season of endurance rides. Some of us clean up surprisingly well.Ashley is my very first grandjunior. I sponsored her mom when Tiffany was a junior rider. Kids must ride with adult sponsors, supposedly for the safety of the kid....ha! Let me tell you about the hundreds of times my kids kept me from wandering off trail...! Ash's dad Andy was always an awesome crew for Tiffany and me. Ashly told me proudly that she has already fallen off of Holly (grandma's horse) and Deuce (mom's horse) but she doesn't fall off of her own horse. And she always wears a helmet.
I can't believe that my grandjunior will be three years old next month--where does the time go?

There were events other than marathon shopping and extreme gossiping, actually. The new PNER website was unveiled at last.
The webmistress is still finalizing some of the pages, but overall it looks really great. I really love the new northwest region TrailMasters page, which features some photos of a few very familiar people!
A new event, which I hope will become an annual tradition, is the Remembrance Wall, where folks can post photos and memories of endurance friends who have gone on ahead. I was also allowed to offer a toast during the festivities to "absent friends." I think it's important to remember our friends.
Jim and I are pretty active in the organization, and we ended up spending a lot of time in planning sessions and meetings.
Paul is the new president, and he has asked me to continue as PNER secretary, chair of the scholarship committee, and Junior Advisor. Whew.
It sounds more complicated than it is--mostly, I have to show up and take notes. I can do that.

As head of the PNER Education Committee and also as resident Tech Geek, Jim kept busy during the weekend.... ...but he still found time to query the banquet chef about the particulars of the beef Marsala sauce. Take notes, Jim! I think you'll want to practice that recipe on me!

Lori Walker hosted the awards banquet, and shared some ridecamp wisdom and funny stories about endurance riding.
Oso is usually present at endurance events to assist with comic relief. Mimsy is terrified of this dog. Luna thinks he must be a very odd cat. Oso thinks that the shelties are too dumb to hang out with, but he will chase around under the tables with them sometimes.
Oh, and hey! Did I mention that the shopping was really great at this convention? Look at all the loot: Those purple saddle bags are too big for endurance, but they will be perfect for the backcountry trips this summer. I almost never find used easyboots big enough for Fiddle, but this one was only $2! It's pretty banged up, but it will be fine as a "spare tire." The little string girth is for Hana, and the sweater was only $10!!! Total score.
But here is the best loot:
Raffle prizes! We always allocate $20 per person for raffle tickets. I don't mind donating $20 to the organization, and truthfully, we almost always win stuff worth more than the price of the tickets. One year I won a heartrate monitor and Jim won a horse blanket (a big purple horse blanket...of course it goes on my horse. He made me beg for two days before he gave it to me, though).

The big prizes we got this year included a free ride entry to a new ride in Washington State, a handmade cup holder, and an Easyboot Glove.
Now: let the ride season begin!