Saturday, November 5, 2011

In which I introduce "Endurance 101": stuff you want to know

The response to yesterday's questions  for experienced, newbie, and non-endurance riders was very I hoped, y'all have plenty of questions about stuff you want to know.

 Therefore, for the remainder of the month of November, I shall devote my attentions to writing some stuff to aid you in your endurance journey (or to start you on said journey, in several cases). 

November is, traditionally, National Novel Writing Month, but this year I figured that I should catch up on some of the non-fiction articles I've promised to Troy at Endurance News and several other editorial-types.  I've already submitted one article and finished another...and writing stuff for the rest of you should keep me busy until the December 1st.  

My goal is to write a bunch of stuff this month that will be immediately useful to people who are interested in endurance but haven't had a bunch of experience (if any) with the sport.  Maybe I will provide enough information to lure a few new people in to try a novice ride or a Limited Distance event.  (Jane?  Laura?  Jametiel? anyone else?).

Truthfully, when I emailed with Troy the list of stuff I can write this month, she asked why I wasn't writing all this stuff as a BOOK.




I....uh....because, I um....


Would you want to read an Endurance 101 book? 

From the last post, I have these topics pulled straight out of the comments:
*  how can I judge speed (and distance) on horseback,  with or without a GPS?

*  how can I get started--what kind of experience is needed to make a good start?

*  how do I deal with idiot horses (my own or those of other people) in a group at the start line?

*  where do I stash my offspring while I'm out riding?

*  forget the kids--can I get a babysitter to help me through the event?

*  conformation?  what are the guidelines for success?

*  how can I monitor my horse's fitness to make sure I'm "pushing", but not too hard?

*  what if I want to try the sport, but I don't have an Arab?

*  are the people nice, even to a total noob?

*  what are the written and unwritten rules?

*  how can I volunteer (at a vet check, perhaps) and learn stuff so I don't die or kill my horse?

*  can I try an "intro" ride so I don't die during my first event?

So here's the big question:
Would you buy a book called Endurance 101: a guide for the first year of distance-riding competitions, ?

If I write it, what do you hope to see in the Table of Contents (in addition to the stuff above)?  

Whaddya think?  Should I write a basic no-jargon guide for people who aren't stupid, but who don't have a bunch of experience with the sport? 

Haiku Farm readers are SMART!

Comment box is open.  Let's hear your ideas! 

(And, uh, if you happen to know a publisher who wants to publish something like this, you'd tell me.  Right?)

Friday, November 4, 2011

In which a respected trainer makes me go "Wha-a-a-a-?" and I pose questions

I've been a fan of horse trainer Larry Trocha for quite a while, ever since somebody sent me THIS LINK to a post he wrote to a woman who was clearly overhorsed and undereducated.  If you follow the link and read his response to the lady, you can tell that he doesn't mince words.  He really does care about horses and about people, and he does his best to make the world a better place for both...especially when they hang out together. 

Mr Trocha specializes in competetive cow-type horses, and I daresay he does quite well.  His horse-training advice (video, audio, and text) are often available free on his website, and well-worth any time you spend there.  However, today I read THIS ENTRY about the need to spend quality money in order to buy a quality horse in order to win.

I read it twice, just in case I had mis-read it the first time. 
Both times, reading it gave me a bad case of "Pickle-head."

I grant you that competetive horse showing of any kind that is based on a "look" requires that you show up with a horse who fits the look.  After all, if the judges are giving ribbons to this:
Scottsdale arabian halter prospect
it would be a waste of everybody's time to bring them a candidate who looks like this:
Team Sensible head.
I get that.

However, Mr Trocha states his opinion as if it is a Universal Truth: 
"You gotta pay a bunch of money to get a horse who can (not will but can) win."

I respectfully disagree.  The sport of endurance is filled with VERY successful horses who were bought cheaply at auction, taken in trade for a bad debt, or adopted free from a friend.  These horses aren't the exception that prove the rule.  They are horses who were taught a skill, and then allowed to use the skill to the best of their ability. 

Endurance is not a sport of appearance.  The vets don't give an overweight rodent's rear-end if you have a blue-blooded Arab full-sibling to Valerie Kanavey's best horse, or if you ride in a million-dollar saddle with a gold-inlaid biothane bridle. If your horse is lame, he's lame.  And if he's lame, he gets pulled. 

Rocks and gopher holes can happen to any horse, no matter how much you paid for it.  The value of an endurance horse comes from his (or her) skill on the trail: the ability to move out for long miles and take care of him/herself (and hopefully take care of the rider as well) along the way.  Money can buy a horse with good conformation and some training that can aid in success, but only experience and practice with the horse and rider together is going to bring years of success in the sport.

As a rider of one of those "free to a good home" horses, I appreciate a sport where performance is valued above appearance.  Sorry, Mr Trocha.  (My horse doesn't chase cows, either.)

Enough preaching.  I've got questions. 

I'm writing some articles about endurance during NaNoWriMo this year, and I want to hear from readers and their friends:

1.  When you started endurance, what part of the sport confused you the most? 

2.  What do you know now that you wished you'd understood when you first started participating in the sport?  If you could go back in time to advise yourself, what would you recommend?

3.  When you see people new to the sport, what aspects of the activity do you think is most important that they learn first?


1.  What is the most scary/intimidating/confusing aspect of the sport?

2.  What do you wish you could learn or improve?


1.  What skill or knowledge would you like to have before trying out the sport of endurance?

2.  What would help you to try out the sport for the first time?

Please, folks:  in the comments, identify yourself by your experience level, and give me your opinions.  I want to hear from you!

Monday, October 31, 2011

In which we celebrate Hallowe'en with...a scary story, of course

I've been telling this story a lot this month.  Seems like it's time to share with y'all.  I wrote it down the way I tell it, so I guess it probably makes more sense if you read it out loud.  Anyhow, it's a good story...and a true one.  --Aarene

"Prom Night"

I grew up in Bellingham, Washington, a little town about an hour south of the Canadian border.  There's some stuff you should know about Bellingham:

The town itself was established in the late 1880's, and one of the first things that the white settlers built when they moved there was Bayview Cemetary, a rolling 22-acre plot of land full of beautiful old trees and lovely old tombstones.  It's interesting that, although the town itself was built around the mouth of Bellingham Bay, the cemetary was built miles away, in the middle of the woods.

After more than 100 years of urban growth, the cemetary is no longer isolated in the woods.  It's now surrounded on three sides by houses, condominiums, and little stores and strip malls.  The fourth side is bordered by Whatcom Falls Park, and I know a great ghost story about the park, but that's not the story I'm going to tell right now. 

I grew up near the cemetary, and loved to explore the hills and valleys of it.  There's one tombstone that's locally famous; we always called it "the angel."  It's the figure of an angel, about 10 feet tall, with huge stone outstretched wings.  That's not the famous part.  The famous part of the angel is the eyes.  Every year during Homecoming Week, the senior boys sneak into Bayview Cemetary and paint the eyes of the angel with orange glow-in-the-dark paint.  That's so that, if you're sneaking around the cemetary in the middle of the night with your buddies and you're trying to scare each other, and the moon comes out or a car drives by, what you see, ten feet up in the air, are these giant orange glowing eyeballs. 

Everybody knows about the angel and the paint and the boys, but still:  if you're sneaking around the cementary in the middle of the night and you see those eyeballs, it's freaky.  And it's cool.  Which is why we went there.   We'd go to the foot of the angel's hill, and sit under a maple tree and tell ghost stories--and of course, most of the ghost stories happened right there in Bayview Cemetary. 

One of my buddies had an older brother who was a senior in high school when we were freshmen.  He told us one night that he knew a true ghost story about Bayview Cemetary, and he went to the maple tree one night and told it to us.

Here's something else you should know about Bellingham:  It always rains on prom night.  Not a polite, misting kind of rain, either.  A sloshy, gullywasher frog-strangler rain is what we get.  The formal shops in town always include a little fold-up clear-plastic poncho when you buy a prom dress.  The tux shops do too--they tuck the little plastic poncho into a shoe when you rent a tux.  Because everybody knows: it always rains on prom night.

One more thing to know about Bellingham:  some long-standing romantic couple always breaks up on prom night.  Nobody can ever figure out in advance who it will be.  Sometimes two girls who are best friends will both dump their boyfriends on prom night, but usually it's just one couple.  It always happens.

So there were these two guys, my buddy's brother told us, these guys who were seniors when he was a freshman.  Neither of these guys had a date for the prom, so they went up to the orchards instead.  The orchards were a secret kid-thing; supposedly, the adults in town had no idea that that's where the keggers were held.  These guys went to the kegger and they drank some beer, and then one or the other of them had an idea: 

They should go cruise around the dance hall and try to pick up a girl who has broken up with her boyfriend!

They hopped into the car and went home to get some nice clothes.  Then they headed downtown, looking for a girl.  They rock-paper-scissored to figure out which of them should move in on a girl if there was only one, and the guy who wasn't driving won.  So he watched out the window while his friend drove circles around the Leopold Inn, where the dance was held.  They drove, and they drove, and they drove around in rainy circles, watching out the windows, and finally, they saw her:  a pretty girl in a pretty pink vintage-style dress with pink dyed-to-match shoes, standing in the rain and crying as if her heart would break.


The guy driving pulled the car up towards her, and the passenger leaned out the window to ask the girl what was wrong.

I just (sob) broke up (sob-sob) with my boyfriend!  She really didn't make much sense because she was crying so hard, but the guy didn't care.  A girl!

He was all kinds of sympathetic, and jumped out of the car into the rain.  He put his suit jacket over her and put his arm around her to comfort her.  He was, like,  I'd never do stuff like that if a pretty girl like you went out with me and How mean to break up on prom night, and like that.  He didn't mean it, of course.  He was just saying that stuff.

He asked her if he could take her to the dance--he didn't have a tux, but he did have a nice jacket (now wrapped around her, and soaking wet from the rain and tears), so he could go in if she wanted to do that.  But she just wanted a ride home, so he walked her to the car where his friend was waiting, and helped her into the back seat, and wrapped his jacket a little more snugly around her shoulders.  Then he got into the front seat (because he wasn't, like, a creep, you know, he just wanted a date), and they drove out of town.

The girl (through sobs and hiccups) directed them to her home out on North Shore Road, which is way outside of town, past the cemetary, past the orchards, and around the north end of Lake Whatcom.  That gave the boy plenty of time to talk to the girl as his buddy drove the car, and he was really nice to her, and she finally stopped crying and even smiled a little bit.

After a while, they turned off the road onto this long gravel driveway that went up the hill to a pretty house overlooking the lake. 

But when they got there, the porch light was off.   And that seemed strange, you know?  Because when you send your girl off to the prom, don't you leave the light on until she gets home?

So they turned around to ask her, was she sure that they were at the right house and


...where did she go? 

Both boys searched frantically in the backseat, as if an entire girl could be hidden by the discarded paper napkins and coffee go-cups on the floor.

Did she get out of the car? They opened their doors to search outside, and the car's dome light went on. 

Does the light come on when a back door opens?  They couldn't remember. 

They opened the back doors the dome light came on and searched again inside the car, in the trunk, under the car...

and then they looked at the house.  Had she gone inside?

They went to the dark doorstep and rang the bell.  It was a long time before they heard somebody moving around.  Finally, the porch light flipped on, and a man opened the door.

Your daughter, the boys said, did she come in?  We didn't see her get out of the car--did she come in the back way?

The man looked at the boys.  Then he looked up at the sky, dumping down rain.  Then he looked back at the boys, and said, It's prom night, isn't it?

Sir, the guys said, Your daughter, did she come in?  We gave her a ride home, but when we got here she must've gotten out when we weren't looking, and we didn't see her leave.

The man shook his head.  No, he told them, my daughter didn't go to the prom tonight.

Sir, they told him, She was there, she broke up with her boyfriend, we gave her a ride home! 

The man shook his head again.  You don't understand, he said.  My daughter...she went to the prom, almost twenty years ago. 

She broke up with her boyfriend that night, and started to walk home in the rain.  She got hit by a car that night, and she died right there on the road where you say you picked her up.  My daughter...she never came home from the prom.  But every year, somebody comes to my door on prom night.  They come here, telling me that my daughter is still trying....  But she never came home.

The boys interrupted him, You don't understand.  She was in the car!  We talked to her!  She was wearing my coat! 

The man told them where the girl had been buried, all those years ago, in Bayview Cemetary.  They didn't go there that night, of course--there wasn't that much beer in the whole orchard.  They went home.

The next day, they went to the cemetary.  Followed the man's directions, and found the tombstone.  They saw it there, with her name on it.  The birthdate, the death date--all those years ago. 

Folded neatly on the back of the tombstone, was the young man's jacket, still wet from the rain the night before.

My buddy's older brother told us this story, and then he took me by the hand.  Led me through the graveyard, and stopped in front of a tombstone.  Shined a flashlight for me to read the name on it, the birthdate, the death date.  He laid my hand on the stone.

I have touched the stone.  The story is true.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In which Hallowe'en is the best time of year: outfits on dogs and goats!

I do this every year.
Princess Mimsy Springwater
Mimsy is the dog who has been around the longest, and she clearly has "resignation" on her face. 
"Soon, Mama will take off the stupid wings and give me a cookie."
Luna loves to play dress-up.  Also:  I cannot take an unflattering picture of her.  It's impossible.  She is always pretty, always smiling beautifully (if somewhat vaguely) at the camera.
Princess Luna Balloona Fish
How can anybody look pretty while dressed as a shark?  And yet, she does.

Pickles is new to the costuming traditions of Haiku Farm.  She didn't mind the ladybug jacket, but she couldn't wait to get that hat off of her head.
"Soon, Mama will take off the hat and throw it so I can fetch it for her!"
(The fairy-princess collar covers up some of the places where her hair isn't all grown in yet.)
Princess Pickles Marie
Together, they are lovely little flowers in their pretty outfits.  And yes, I did have a cookie for each of them when the photo shoot was finished.

"She has a cookie, and she will share with us.  We know this.
But the scene-stealers, as always, are the goats:

What's funnier than a goat?  A goat in drag!

One of Cinderella's stepsisters, perhaps?

"I'll eat your costume, if you eat mine!"  Words fail me, really.
Do you have your costume ready for tomorrow?  I want to see it! 

Post on your blog, or send me a link and I'll post it here!
The tiger costume is always popular, but we had to explain the concept of "hillbilly."
Apparently, they don't have hillbillies in Korea.  Huh.  Who knew?

Happy Hallowe'en, everyone!