Friday, August 5, 2011

In which we acquire something we do not need and now she needs a name

When my co-worker, who also volunteers at PAWS, came into the library the other day and told me, "there's an owner-surrendered sheltie at the shelter,"  I knew I was a goner.

I tried to postpone the inevitable.  I figured, if I dawdled long enough, some other lucky person would see that sweet face and take her home. 

 I was, however, honor-bound to call home with the news, and say to my beloved spouse, who already knows this and believes it in his heart:  "Shelties don't belong in shelters."
 By the time I got home from work, he had been on the shelter website, downloaded all their photos of this little sheltie girl, and told me all the details:
 She's about 7 years old.  Was unspayed at the time of owner-surrender (!!!!!!) but they've fixed that now.  Probably has been bred at least once.  Is nearly bald from the collar to the tail, as a result of untreated flea allergy + cheap food.  She's tiny compared to the other shelties, (only a bit bigger than the hens) and will have a mahogony-sable coat when she grows hair again.
 She walks nicely on a leash, but didn't know the command "sit" until about an hour ago.   She was VERY interested to meet the goats, and a little intimidated by the chickens, especially Twelve.
 The cat thinks she's a chew-toy.  He chews on the other shelties with impunity, but this one doesn't have any protective foof yet! 
 She is interested by tennis balls, but her real passion seems to be chasing shadow puppets.
And she needs a name!

All the animals here are named from books, preferably children's literature.  Geeky children's literature is extra-good.  We've spent the evening trying out names from Redwall, Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh, and Harry Potter to no avail.

Ideas, anyone?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

In which my calendar and the weather cooperate for a change

Let me be clear:  my horse loves dressage.

I consider dressage to be absolutely vital, especially when a horse-and-rider team want to tackle something as physically challenging as endurance riding.

But I don't love it. 

I don't wake up in the morning with a smile, eagerly anticipating my chance to practice shoulder-in, or haunches-in. 

I do love the feeling of accomplishment from spending some really good quality time with my horse...which includes riding lessons.

This week, by some bizarre fluke, my work schedule and the local weather synchronized perfectly to allow me four days in a row of awesome riding. 

The first day was trail riding with my friends the Fish.
I wrote about that day (SUNSHINE!) in a separate blog post, located HERE.  It was a great opportunity to relax on the trail.  We all started out really stressed out, so we rode about 10 miles in the sunshine and were all very happy by the time we got back to the trailer.

Friday was a lesson day.  Here's a picture taken during my warm-up:
 That shoulder--ack!    I have been battling various posture issues for YEARS, and collapsing my ribs on the right side (dropping the shoulder down + scrunching the hip up) is a really persistant bad habit. 
 Misery loves company:  Duana drops her shoulder too.

By mid-way through our lesson, our shoulders were up where they belonged!
 Du is working on some basics and getting to know Hana.  Hana is an excellent lesson pony--she was well-trained by somebody years ago, and whenever a rider is skilled enough to ask for something advanced, she always responds beautifully.
By contrast, Fiddle was "green-broke/been rode some" when I got her, so almost all of her training has come from me...and I do not consider myself an advanced rider.
Dory, our instructor, is working hard to change that.  She makes all of the endurance riders who study with her work so hard in the arena...and it really pays off when we get out on the trails. 

She works with each of us so we train our own horses as we improve our riding.

 It isn't "the quick way" to succeed.  It also isn't "the easy way."
 But when we ride correctly, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing!
 (Becky saw the photo above on Facebook, and is working on a Photoshopped version to remove the pesky white barrel in the lower right corner.  Hooray for technology, sez me!)

Saturday was the day for a group lesson:  nine of us together in the arena!
 Jim rode Hana for this lesson.  She was, unsurprisingly, mostly awesome. 
 A lesson with so many people and horses looks a bit chaotic. 

Our group included some longtime students on new horses, 
 some experienced riders practicing for an equitation show in August,
 at least one dressage diva,
 and more than a few endurance wonks working hard to improve their riding.
 Fiddle doesn't like to work in a group.
 "Life is tough," I told her.  "Suck it up and concentrate!"  And eventually, she did.
 Jim and Hana work well together.
 We practiced counter-flexing, shoulder-in, and haunches-in.   Some horses, like this Morgan mare, are very green but tried hard to figure out what they were asked to do.
 The grey mare knows how to do this stuff, but the rider was having difficulty.  That's okay.  That's what lessons are for.
 Fiddle worked really well during the lesson.  We weren't successful at every manuever, but we both were trying really hard, and I was very proud of her. 
 Sunday was a day to relax again. 
 Just to make things interesting, Jim and I swapped horses! 

Hana's bouncy attitude is hard on Jim's back and hips (he has very little cartilage in his back, thanks to a mis-spent youth), so I wanted him to try a ride on Team Sensible.  Fiddle may be huge, but her strides are smooth, and of course she isn't so silly as Arabs.  Plus, I'm a big believer in doing lots of new and different things with my horse.  Accepting a new rider is just one more thing that's good for her.
 That means I got to ride Miss Bouncy Banana.  She's not looking quite so fat as she did before Duana started riding her, but she's still pretty plush. 
 Hahahaha, usually it's me that needs a rock to mount up!
 He seems pretty happy way up there, though.
 Hana had to give these big culverts The Big Eye. 
 Fiddle just walked on by the culverts...and right past the backhoe, too.
 Then, I got to see her Big Thing the way other people see it:  from behind!  


In the video, you can sort of see and hear how many extra steps Hana needs to take in order to keep up with Fiddle, who is moving out at her "happy trot", not the Big Thing. 

("happy trot" = 10-12 mph, "Big Thing" trot = 14-17 mph)

I shut the video off about half-a-stride before Hana gave up and started to canter. 
 Up in the meadow, we took pictures of each other:  look!  My shoulder is up!  Hooray!
And Fiddle and Jim, they look happy too.

Because (you heard it here first):  Life (with horses) is GOOD.