Monthly Archives: April 2012

And You May Ask Yourself: How Did I Get Here?

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And you may ask yourself: How do I work this?

And you may tell yourself: That is not my beautiful house!

Once again, I find myself taking Philosophical Inspiration from David Byrne and the Talking Heads, and thus, I suppose, giving away my position as the vanguard for Generation X.

Now, Huey has had a lot of time on the blog, lately, well, because he lives in a world of such Exceptionable Drama we might as well make a soap opera out of it.  Grey’s Anatomy has nothing, I repeat nothing on the naked, thrilling excitement of Life At The Barn.  It is abundantly clear to me, as I develop my relationship with him, that he sees the world in ALL CAPS, italics, and a virtually endless supply of !!!!!.  In fact, I would hazard the guess that every third thought that crosses his brain is comprised entirely of “!!!!”.

Lest anyone get the idea that this is Horses, in general, I assure you that there are many horses in the barn that do not think primarily in ALL CAPS!!!!!!  In fact, the only other horses I can think of at the barn that have a tendency to think in ALL CAPS!!!! are all young mares…and when I say “young” I mean “young enough to be new to that whole ‘saddle’ thing”.  Huey, as we all know, is not “young” by any stretch.

No.  He is Sensitive.  Or, possibly, sensitive. Or, really, he is SENSITIVE!!!!

Don’t get me wrong.  I adore Huey.  It’s not exactly that He Can Do No Wrong In My Eyes, because he does stuff of which I disapprove all the time.  It’s just that I don’t consider that doing that stuff…detracts…from him in any way.  He’s a freaking Drama Queen. No, I don’t mean Drama King.  I don’t even know what a Drama King would be.  He is definitely a Drama Queen.  He shares that with his step-daddy, Roy, by the way.  He is also, I regret to say, a bully.  This, he shares with his step-brother Buster Kitty, also a first-class bully.  He’s excessively Sensitive.  All that stuff about getting shocked by the blanket?  Just so you all know, we’re talking about the tiniest possible transfer of static electricity.  I mean, we’re talking about the kind of static electricity you get when you brush your hair when it’s dry and cold out.  All those little crackles that you can’t really even feel?

That’s what he’s freaking out about when he starts going off about getting ZAPPED (note the Drama!!!!) and blatting through his nose and frowning – my trainer says horses don’t have the muscles to frown, and I believe that, but I really don’t know how else to characterize the puckered look he gets on his face when he’s pissed off that someone has just delivered the tiniest possible static charge to him.  Oh, yeah, I can’t forget:  he is a veritable Master of the Stink Eye.

Some days, I feel like I haven’t really Lived unless I’ve gotten the Stink Eye from Huey.

I prefer not getting the Stink Eye, just like any parent.  It’s one thing to say that if your kids don’t hate you, you’re not doing your job (kind of true); it’s another thing to do stuff knowing that you’re going to be getting some bloody great hissy fit and the Stink Eye, combined with a lot of sulking.

It’s amazing how loud a hairy 1,200lb quadruped can sulk, too.  You parents of human children?  You don’t know sulking until you’ve been subjected to something the approximate size of a Prius sulking. at. you. as. loudly. as. it. can.  Geez.  I can almost – not quite, but almost – understand the (horse) parents who put up with infinitely escalating Bad Behavior on the part of their kids, just because they can’t stand the thought of dealing with Yet Another Epic Sulking Fit.

Almost, I say.  Because with kids, you put up with that stuff, eventually, you wind up with a hormone-charged death machine wanting to borrow the keys of the car, or getting into fights on the playground.

With horses, you put up with that stuff, eventually, you wind up with a hair-trigger stampeding death machine vaulting out from under you as you sit five feet above ground.

Notice, I don’t say “and getting into fights on the playground.”

I speak from Experience.  I donot put up with Bad Behavior from my horse.  Or, not very much, and only until I learn from the Wiser Heads that surround me at the barn how best to Put A Stop To That Nonsense.  Huey, for example, had the extremely bad habit ofcharging into and out of his stall, like he thought that the stall door was a Hell Mouth that was ready and primed to close around his juicy, soft, sweet Horse Belly.  He did this to me twice.  The first time, I was surprised, and green, and didn’t take action on it, because all I could think was “What the heck just happened there?”

Also, he wasn’t mine then, either.

The second time he tried that stuff, he was mine, and I was ready for it.  And Mr. Sensitive (aka Mr. Panicky And Imperious) found himself getting repeatedly backed up the barn aisle until the penny dropped that I Was NOT Going To Stand For That.  And, really, that’s the last time I had that problem.  The only issue I have with My. Imperious coming out of his stall is that there is typically a bale of hay parked in the vicinity for the convenience of the Barn Owner, and he considers that to be his Private Salad Bar.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, my grandma always said, and she was right.  I just assume he’s going to make a bid for the hay, and I make sure to be in the way.  Voila.  No trouble there.  It keeps me on my toes, or whatever the mental equivalent of my toes is, but hey, I’m OK with that.

And the grass, and the carrots, and the fact that he wants to pick fights with every other gelding in the barn, and that whole phase we went through for a month where he didn’t feel like going in the halter, and the way he doesn’t feel like going into the round pen to lunge, and, and, and…

I spend a lot of time with Huey thinking “I can’t believe this is my horse.”

Most of the time, it’s “I can’t believe this awesome horse is my awesome horse.”

But, honestly, some of the time, it’s “I can’t believe this fractious, imperious, demanding, hypersensitive, drama queen of a horse is my horse.”

The accumulated wisdom of the web (which is actually significant, when it comes to the Horse Community) would seem to indicate that the Perfect First Horse is some bombproof, totally seasoned, totally trained, mellow, older horse that has Seen And Done It All.  Some horse that is the next thing to impossible to spook, some horse that alreadyknows all the moves, some horse that is laid back.

While Huey is…seasoned…it’s “seasoned” to very high levels of high-pressure competition.  He’s older, all right, and he’s Seen And Done It All, if by “All” you mean “some serious competition in a rollicking adrenaline-soaked racket over some jumps of a height that any individual with a sense of self-preservation would look at them and head the other direction.”  Bombproof?  As long as he doesn’t get distracted, startled, or have his Competitive Instincts stirred up by the presence of Any Other Horse. Trained? If you want to use him to leap over tall buildings in a single bound.  Knows all the moves?  Translation: Requires active higher-reasoning skills in order to stay one step in front of.

In short, he’s not your…typical…first…horse.  He’s more…an Adventure on Four Feet.  A Thrilling Companion.  One that is happy to cede Leadership of the Troupe…as long as the Right to hold that leadership is demonstrated definitively…every five to ten minutes.

I wouldnever have him in my backyard, even if my backyard was bigger than his stall, which it’s not.  This is a horse to have and keep when there are seasoned, wiser, experienced individuals about.

And, speaking of those Seasoned, Wiser, Experienced Individuals, I found out this morning that Huey has been trying his rubbish when I’m not there.  He knows perfectly well that he is not I repeat NOT allowed to run me over or shoulder, intimidate, or otherwise pressure me physically when I am taking him in or out of his stall.  I gather, based on my latest Parent-Teacher Conference, that he is not nearly so confident in his understanding of this matter with regards to other individuals who handle him at the barn. For example, he exercised the Very Poor Judgment this morning of trying that stuff on the Barn Owner.  The Barn Owner is the only individual that is sufficiently significant in Huey’s world to have a Name.  In general, he regards her as being some kind of Supreme Being.  Not so Supreme, I should note, that when she’s doing some training with him in the round pen, that he has both ears plastered to her – he always has one on her, and one on me, as if I’m going to write him some kind of Excuse Note to get him off of his classwork.

So I was very surprised this morning when the Barn Owner mentioned that Huey had been Very Naughty that morning, and that she’d had to spank him (or the Horse Training Equivalent thereof).  I was grooming Himself in the cross ties, and she stopped to chat.  This isn’t uncommon, but this time, it started out “He was really naughty this morning.” and as I said “What did he do!” I noticed that he had craned his head around to fix his eye on both of us, and that eye was…Wild.  It was rolling, and it had a lot of white.

Now, this is very interesting, because he’s used to a lot of chatter – including a lot of chatter about him – going on while I’m grooming him.  But this time, with the whites? I only wish I’d had a camera.

That little bugger knew that 1) we were talking about him, and 2) that it was a Parent-Teacher Conference.  He knew he was getting tattled on.  It was extraordinary, that look.

I wish I could say I was surprised that he was Acting Out around the barn staff, but I’m not that naive.  I was very glad to hear that the Barn Owner had dealt with the situation definitively.  I really do not see that the barn staff should have to put up with anything like that.  Problem is, what Mr. Super Smart Horse learns is not “This behavior is Not OK” what he learns is “I cannot get away with this behavior around X, Y, or Z.”  And anyone else?

Fair Game.

And you may tell yourself: How did I wind up with the kid that beats up the other kids on the playground, and cuts up in the classroom as soon as the teacher’s back is turned, but behaves like an angel at home?

I don’t know.  I am horrified, sometimes, to realize that my kid is the one that beats up all the others.  My kid is the one that mouths off to the teacher.  He doesn’t do that stuff at home, but he’s constantly looking to see who he can get away with that stuff.

And the days go by…let the water hold me down…

I can understand where anyone reading this blog gets the idea that the only thing I ever do is horses.

Not true.

Once in a lifetime…water flowing underground.

I’m almost done with the term.  When I was an undergraduate, I would have lived for the summer break, except that the summer break was when I tended to the businesses I was running in order to round up some cash to go to school.  I didn’t have a lot of “break” when I was a student…working a 40-hour-per-week job while attending night classes at a school 30 miles away doesn’t leave a lot of “break” time.  Basically, my “break” was when I got to just work 40 hours a week like every other person, instead of having to schedule, organize, and plan every freaking second of my (all too short) waking hours.  Graduate school wasn’t any better – we had classes all summer, and more.  Research. Work.

As a Young Faculty member, it hasn’t been much different.  Summer is when you do a lot of research.  Or – for the last five freaking years for me, it’s when you mess with your classes.  Every summer for the last five years has been spent building some class that I was going to teach for the first time, ever, in the coming academic year.

This is a vast amount of work.  Until you’ve done it, you have no idea.  And to those of you who haven’t, I have no way of explaining.  There’s no frame of reference.

A lot of students, I think – and I used to be among them, which is how I know – think that professors work…maybe 9 hours per week teaching, and another 5 hours per week in office hours.  Total of 14 hours per week.

I had the great and rare experience this past week of an advisee dropping by to share some very good news about her progress in a class (which I love to hear) and telling me that “well, there’s all this stuff that goes on behind the scenes! Professors work a TON of hours when school is in session!”

Which is true.  It’s at least a 60 hour per week job, what with course planning, grading, and answering the (to date) 457 e-mails from students (just this term) and the online discussion forum (which has, at this moment, 242 messages, all of which I’ve had to read, many of which I’ve had to respond to.  Oh, yeah, and there’s the administrative stuff. OH YEAH, AND THE RESEARCH.

The thing is, this is the first time in 15 years that I’ve had an undergrad standing in my office going “Yeah, I can’t believe how much work professors have to put in.”

I didn’t ask her – and should have – how many professors she’s got in the family.  Because I can’t think of any other way that she would know.

And you may ask yourself: Where is that large automobile?

As long as I’m feeling like I’m living in a foreign country, what with Being The Mom Of  A Bully and Having Undergrads Who Grasp The Amount Of Work We Professors Put In, I’ll close with some True News of the Weird.

I take my Hometown Paper.  It’s been published, continuously, for over 225 years.  That, alone, is enough to qualify: And you may find yourself, in another part of the world.

There ain’t anything been going on in Texas for 225 years, except maybe a few Indian mounds.  And maybe the evolution of Tex-Mex.  But newspapers? Houses? No. Nothing of that vintage where I come from.

I started taking my Hometown Paper when I became a Property Owner.  My diehard spouse, the Redoubtable Roy, takes the Sunday New York Times.  I, however, felt that the Sunday Times was going to offer little or no insight on stuff that affects my Property Values.  Zoning stuff.  Information about the Paving Backlog.  That kind of Important Thing.  And I’m right, and I do, all the time, find myself in the position of saying to Roy “Oh, yeah, of course [thing is going on], I read about that in the Gazette.”

If the Gazette published a daily listing of Traffic Construction Sites around town, my life would truly be complete.

As it is, I get the General News:  I know, for example, to expect the construction on the Controversial Look Park Roundabout this week – to fix cracks in the brickwork that was installed improperly by State Crews and has been disrupted by the Eighteen-Wheel Crowd – and I also know that the state is footing the bill for this.  It gives me a Warm Feeling in the belly to know this stuff.

But what I wish to close with today is that vision of the Friday Circular, which lists (the actually quite tremendous and impressive) scope of Cultural Activities, and includes, as a Human Interest Feature, the “Style Stop.”  I don’t know where to start with the Style Stop.  It always seems to be photographed in the same place, and my conclusion is that either the Style Stop Editor engages in some recreational drug use behind the city parking garage and then finds someone “funky” to snap…or that this chore is delegated to the city-approved panhandler who flashes his license at you before launching into his Panhandling Pitch.  In any case, this week’s photo features an older guy, wearing a pair of sunglasses, a bandanna wrapped around his head, a pair of faded, stained denim overalls, a wife-beater shirt, and a tattooed arm.  The Style Stop Editor refers to this as a “look” that is “casual, but put together.”

I will reproduce here, the salient features of the ensuing interview.

The Overalls: I wear them so my pants don’t fall down.

Undershirt: Sleeves just kind of get in the way.

Bandanna: So I don’t get sunburned on my bald spot.

It goes on from there.  All I can think is what fun this Style Spot Editor would have with 90% of my Homies from Texas.  Warm it up, crew, and when you visit me next, we’ll loiter, and you can be the next “casual, but put together” style feature in the paper.

And you may tell yourself: My God, What Have I Done?

Woman in Window

I think it's time to go back to Italy. This place is just getting too weird. Only, I don't want to piss off the horse. It's a quandary...

We’re in Fiddlehead, Asparagus, and Morel Season now.  The local morels are way more full of sand than the ones I’m used to from Madison.  It’s nasty.  No matter how long I soak the buggers, they’re still full of grit when I finish cooking them.  Ugh. So here’s a fiddlehead recipe, for those of you lucky enough to be near some place where fiddleheads get wildcrafted:

Fiddlehead Pasta

1 lb capellini
1 lb fiddleheads
2 scallions, sliced thin
olive oil
1 T white truffle oil
quantity of Tony Chachere (if you don’t know what this is, it means you should buy some online)

Wash the fiddleheads, then boil 5 minutes. Drain and plunge into ice water.
Boil the pasta 5 minutes, then drain.
Heat the olive oil, saute the fiddleheads and scallions for a couple of minutes.
Toss the pasta with the truffle oil, salt, pepper, and a good shaking of Tony Chachere. Toss the seasoned pasta in with the fiddleheads. Serve with plenty of fresh-grated parmesan. No, really, buy the big block of stuff and grate it in your food process. The previously-grated stuff in the tub or bag just doesn’t do justice to these fiddleheads. They’re only around for three weeks for pete’s sake. Get the good cheese.
Enough for 4.

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It Is Good To Be The Wonder Horse!

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Well.  There has been so much to talk about at the barn that I do not even know where to start!  There are new horses, and I learned a new thing!

There are a bunch of new horses and they just have to work, work, work.  I feel bad for them, they have to work that much.  I like to work, but I think it about just right that my rider is coming by all the time and I have to work some, but I do not have to work that much.  I like to work some, and I like to hang out and eat hay too.  Also, grass!!  I have been stealing grass!  I know some times my rider will hold onto the rope and let me eat some grass, and so I make sure every time she is holding the rope that I ask her REALLY loud if it is time for me to go eat some grass.  The easiest way to ask, I know, is that I just try walking right over to the grass and start eating it.  My rider does not like this, and she usually yanks on the halter, but I can yank right back!  Only when I do that, she makes the end of the rope come bite me on the shoulder.  It does not hurt, but it makes a noise, and I act like I am really scared, because I think it is important for my rider to know.

Anyway, she has not been letting me eat the grass so much.  She says if I stop asking she may let me do it more.  That is silly.  How will she know that I want to go eat some grass if I do not ask?

Now.  I had to work too much last week.  I had to go in the little pen and walk and run in stupid little circles, and then go do some poky ride even if we are trotting it is still poky.  I had to do that for a day and a day and a day and a day and a day and another day.  That was one too many days, I think. On the last day, I was tired and my shoulder was stiff, and I did not go straight.  I know I am supposed to go straight and usually I am very good at it, but not that day.

I tried though.  That is because I am the Wonder Horse.  It did not work, and then my rider was sitting on me in a weird way, and I said Rider, why are you sitting like that?  It is not comfortable.  And she said I am trying to help you go straight, Huey.  But I said I am too tired.  I just cannot go straight today.  And after a while, my rider gave up and we stopped.  I felt bad because I am not a lazy horse.  Not like some horses around here, who had the tiniest rider ever sit on them and then all those horses had to do was to stand still in the little ring, and then the tiny rider wanted to get down and that horse just got to go back into the paddock and eat hay and all without doing anything at all.  AND those horses did not behave in the cross-ties and were Fidgety.  So I felt bad because I could not go straight, and my rider was disappointed – I could tell – but she said It is OK Huey, and she gave me a treat and took me back to the paddock.

But then?  She did not come at all for two days.  I had to work and work and work, and then I can not go straight, and then my rider just leaves me standing out in the rain?  Well, I was really in the barn in my nice raincoat with my sticky licking ball and my pink salt, but still.  I could have been out in the rain.  Then she showed up and said Let’s go Huey but I said I do not want to go.  And she stepped up and wanted to blow in my nose, which usually we both like, but I did not want her to blow in my nose, so I put my head on the side.  And she said Huuuuey and tried to give me a scratch but I did not want a scratch.  Well, I did want a scratch, but I wanted her to know that it was not OK to just go off like that!  Then she understood.  She knew I was not a Happy Horse.  She is very deaf sometimes because she knew I was not happy because she was gone but she did not realize I was also not happy because she was gone right after I could not go straight.

So she said Huey, I am sorry I was gone, but I hurt my back sitting on you weird that day, and I have not been able to walk around much.  It is like when your leg was sore and we could not ride.

Oh.  Well.  Lame, that I understand.  She was lame.  She cannot come out to the barn if she is lame.  That is because she does not live at the barn.  So I said I might be OK about that.  But.  It was not my fault I could not go straight, rider, you know.

And she said Oh Huey, I know that.  It was too much work.  But you will be OK now, I know.  You are still my Special Horse! And I said Really?  And she said Yes!  You are the Wonder Horse!  Of course! So I said You did not tell me that for a long time.  And she said, Well, even if I forget to say it, you are still my Wonder Horse.  Always.  So then I let her scratch my neck and blow in my nose and it was OK.  Or, it was OK until I had to go on the lunge line because she said I had to do some work but she was still too lame to ride.  I never liked the lunge line much, but now I really do not like it.  So I put my nose down to the ground and trotted and I looked at her from the side of my eye and I said Do we have to do this? It is boring! And she said Yes, but then it started to rain, so we stopped and went back into the barn.  And then she had carrots, so I really knew I was the Wonder Horse.  It is good to be the Wonder Horse.  I get carrots.

Yesterday, Bug was in the ring with us.  I had to go poke, poke, poke, only walking and trotting, and he was cantering all over the place like it was his own ring!!  It was not fair.  So I made up my own mind, and when he went racing past us, I said Here we go!! and I went to trot.  Only, my rider was there before me, and she said No and pulled the reins to make me stop.  But the next time I said We are really going now!! And I went to trot and I put my head in the air so that she could not pull me on the reins to stop.  Ha!  Except she was there on that too, and somehow made the reins stop me then, too.  So I said You are not being fair.  Bug is beating me.  But she said Bug is not beating you.  He is getting a lesson.  We will have one tomorrow.  And so we did.  And there is a thing that my rider has been trying to do for ages.  I do not really know what it is, because it is like she wants me to turn and stop and go all at the same time!  It is confusing!  And we did that once, and she said That is not quite right, Huey.  And I said I do not know what to do.  So she said Well, then, listen to me, because I am not very good at telling you with my seat and hands, so maybe if I tell you to your ears you will know then.  I am the dummy, not you.  Here is what I want you to do.  I want you to keep walking forward, but go to the side at the same time.  Go away from the side I put my leg on.  Keep your body straight.  Do not just point your head at the rail.  Walk forward and sideways all at once.

So, because I am the Wonder Horse, that is what I did.  I walked forward, and when my rider put the leg on me, I walked sideways at the same time.  And she said HUEY!  YOU ARE SO SMART!! And she gave me a huge pat on my neck.  And I said I did not know that is what you wanted.  Of course I can do that.  But she said You did it very good!! And Laura, who is also teaching my rider to ride, although not the same way I am teaching her said That was great!!  So then I knew I did it right, because my rider is not very smart sometimes and she tells me things are OK when I could be doing them better, but Laura never says that.  If she says it is OK that means it isvery good!

So that is the new thing I learned.  Only it wasn’t really new, but now at least I know what my rider is asking for.  I can hardly wait until she is a good rider.  I hope that happens soon.

Here is the other exciting stuff:  there is a new horse!  I know I said there were a bunch of new horses, but this one is different!

That is because he is tiny.  He is the smallest horse I have ever seen!  I thought maybe he was a foal, and so I stopped to say Hi, Foal! And to let him know that I am the most important horse in the barn, but he laughed and said I am not a foal!! I am a grown horse!!

But, I said, You are too small to be a horse.  Are you a pony? And then he got mad and he stamped his feet and said I am a small horse!  I am not a pony!!

I said It is OK if you are a pony, my BFF Tango is a pony too.

But he snorted really hard through his nose and said I am NOT a pony! I am a HORSE.  And if you come in here, I will kick you just so you know!

It is good that we said all that stuff very fast, because my rider had the rope and she was not happy that I wanted to stand and talk to the little horse.  One, she said, because he is in quarantine.  I do not know what quarantine is, but it meant that I was not allowed to sniff noses with him.  Two, she said, because I cannot Behave Myself when I am sniffing noses.  I can if it is a mare, but if it is a gelding, I sniff noses and then, I cannot help it, I have to scream and stamp my feet very hard.  My rider does not let me sniff noses with any horse because she says I forget how to act and that I could be dangerous.  She might be right.  I know I feel dangerous when I do that, and I want to.  I want that other horse to know how dangerous I am and not to mess with me or eat my hay!!!  And it is all my hay, too.

So I was not allowed to sniff noses with the tiny horse.  But I will!  I will make sure of that!  Maybe when he is not in quarantine any more.  I will have to be careful not to squish him when I stamp my feet, though. He is that small.  And I know my rider would not be happy at all if I squished the little horse!!  In the meantime, I will be practicing my leg yield – that is what my rider called the new trick we did today.  I will be the best at that.  Everyone will know.

I am being one tough horse with my leg yields. This is an old picture. I do not have this halter any more. I have a green one.

This Is More Like It!!

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Well, it has been a long time since I told everyone what is happening at the barn.  That is because I have been very busy!!  There are tons of new horses here, and I have to make sure I meet them all and let them know that I am the Boss.  Well, I am the Boss of all the boys.  I don’t care what Clay and Elvis say.  And, now that I think about it, all of the new horses are mares, and mares are definitely the Boss of Me.  Anyway, I have had a fun time meeting all these new horses!

The new horses have to work much more than I do, but I have to work much more than I used to.  My rider was gone for ages, TWO DAYS at least.  That was not good.  Since I hurt my leg she has been here every day.  And that is good, because I know that I am important, and also, it is something different than just hanging out in the paddock and waiting for something to eat.  Also, I like her.  And sometimes there is a treat.  It is boring in the paddock now, after I got into that huge fight with Elvis and destroyed my jacket, I have been in the paddock all by myself.  That is nice because there is no other horse to eat my food, but it is boring because there is no other horse to fight.  I tried calling Clay some names over the fence, but he just went off to fight with Elvis.  I guess it is OK when they fight because they do not tear each others’ skin up.  I do not mind so much, but my rider does not like it when I get holes in my skin from fighting, or when another horse kicks the hair off of me.  I do not think that Clay’s rider or Elvis’s rider like it either.  So now I am alone.  But I have been seeing a lot of my rider.

Here is how it goes when my rider comes.  She walks up and says Hey Buddy!  And I say My name is not Buddy, it is Huey.  And she says I know that, Buddy is not a name, it is just a thing I call you because I like you.  So I say OK.  And then she puts my special boots on.  I like my new boots.  They are warm, and my legs do not get as stiff with them.  But I have to stand there for a long time waiting with my boots on, so it is better if I am in my stall where I can look around in case there is a piece of hay or some grain.  If I have to stand in the cross-ties is it boring.  Unless Bug comes over to say Hi, which he does sometimes.

After I have been standing around a long time my rider brushes me.  Every time she scrubs me hard with the brush, which feels kind of good.  And then she says Oh no! Look at all this hair!  And she has to go empty the brush out!  Sometimes she has to go empty the brush three or four times!  That is a lot of hair!!  Then she puts stinky pink stuff on another brush and puts it all over me.  I do not like that as much, but she says that otherwise, all the dirt just stays on.  I told her it is a lot of work to get that dirt and I want it to stay on, but she just says No.  Then I get my feet cleaned.  Always when I am getting my feet in the back cleaned, my tummy rumbles, and I have to lift my tail and make a fart.  And always my rider says Thank you for that Huey. And I say You are welcome.

Then I get my saddle and bridle on, but I have a special new fly mask too!  It is a fly mask I can wear when we are riding!  I cannot wear my regular Wonder Horse Fly Mask when we are riding because I cannot see well enough out of that.  But my new Wonder Horse Fly Mask lets me see great and it keeps the bugs off my eyes and out of my ears!  And the best part?  My rider showed me:  It says HUEY in big letters, right across the nose!  So everyone will know, even if they cannot see my face!!  My rider says this is good, because any person would be happy to know that they had seen me, the Wonder Horse!  Also, it means that Elvis cannot take it and say it is his.  If it was his, it would say ELVIS in big letters, not HUEY, like is really written there.

It used to be, I would get my tack on and my rider would say Let’s go ride! and we would go into the ring.  Only, I always stop before I go into the ring.  I have to make sure my rider really wants to go in the ring.  If she did not want to go in the ring, and we went in the ring, it would be bad.  She always seems to, but you never know.

Now, since I got my Wonder Horse Warm Boots, we do not go right into the ring.  We go into the little ring and I have to walk and trot around that little ring for a long time.  Last week there was a frightening Plastic Monster in it.  This week, I know it is only a tarp, and it is not scary at all.  Today, I went in the little ring.  But before we went in there, I stopped, because I had to make sure the rider really wanted to do that.  And she did.  Usually, she says Huey, come on, let’s go in.  Today, she said Stop screwing around Huey. Get into that ring.  I think this is because I kept wanting to bite her when she was brushing me.  I could not help it, I was in my stall, and I was bored, and I have not had any other horses to fight in ages and there was my rider brushing away, and she was bending over, and there was her butt, right there, and there was my mouth.  I was not going to give her a big bite, not like I do when it is one of the other boys that is not Respecting me.  I was just going to give her a little nice bite, to let her know I like her.  But she did not see it that way, and she said There is a big wet spot on my pants, and I did not put it there, Huey! And I said I did!! And she said You keep your mouth off of my butt, Huey.  And I said Well, what about your leg?  Or your foot? And she said You are being a pest! and then she played with my nose until I put my face away.  So that is why I think she said Get into that ring!

Well.  There is something you have to know about that little ring.  First, it has grass growing around the outside.  And second, it is next to some paddocks that are covered with grass.  And today, there were horses in those paddocks.  There was Sprite and Pumpkin and two of the new mares, and they were all wandering around and eating all the grass they wanted.  And there was me, having to poke around in that little ring.

It was more than a horse should have to stand.  I stopped and said Hey you horse! And my rider said Huey! Walk! and I walked.  But the next time I stopped and I said Hey you horses!!  I want some grass too! and the rider said HUEY! and she made the rope snake touch my butt.  Then I sprang forward and I cantered around in that circle and for a few minutes I forgot about the other horses eating all that grass.  But then I remembered, so I stopped and said HEY! You horses!! and the rider said HUEY! TROT! and she used that voice I have to listen to.  But I said to her, Rider, it is not fair that I am having to do all this work and those other horses are eating all that grass. I never get to eat grass!  Except for yesterday for a few minutes, and whatever I can get from bending over really well to get my nose under the fence. But I want to eat all that grass!!  And she said that those other horses had already done a lot of work today, and that I needed to Get On The Stick and finish warming up so we could work.  So I did.

Working is OK.  We had a lesson yesterday.  I like lessons, because my rider is better at it when we are having a lesson.  It is all stuff I know, so it is kind of boring for me, but I have to spend a lot of time paying attention and making sure that she does not fall off.  She has not fallen off in ages, but you never know.  It could happen.  So I liked the lesson even though I had to work harder.  Everyone said I look good and that my leg is better.  I think it is mostly better.  The Wonder Horse Warm Boots help.

Today, after we worked, my rider made me do some stretches and then she put my regular Wonder Horse Fly Mask on and plenty of fly spray, which is good, because I hate bugs.  There was one on my tummy this morning and it almost got me in trouble because I kept trying to move it off with my hoof and people thought I might be kicking.  But I was not kicking.  Just trying to get a bug.  Finally, my rider put the brush there and made the bug move away, which was very nice.  And while I was getting my fly mask on, my rider was talking to someone about where I was going to go next.  Then I heard a word I knew.

I poked my rider with my nose.  I said You said grass.

She did not say anything, she just untied me and took me outside. Then she wanted me to stand around.

I poked her with my nose again.  You said grass I said.  I heard you say it.

She said Huey, stop poking me with your nose.

But you said grass I told her.  I heard you. You said it.

She said Please stand still, Huey.  We just have to wait for a few minutes.

I stood there for a bunch of minutes and then I said It has been a few minutes.  But she said it had not, it had only been one minute.

I poked her with my nose again.  But you said grass, I said.  I heard you.  You said grass.

She said Huey! Stop poking me with your nose!!  Stand still!!  We have towait.

But I could not stand still for any more minutes.  I danced around on my feet and I poked her some more with my nose.  You said GRASS I heard you you said it  GRASS you said GRASS!  GRASS!  GRASS!!!!  I heard it!

Well, I guess I went a little too far because next I knew, I was getting tied up to the hitching post.  And my rider was talking to someone I couldn’t see, and then Sprite came into the barn, and then Pumpkin came out of the grass.  And she was still chewing it when she walked past me.  She flicked her tail at me and said Ha Ha Huey!  Grass!!  And I twisted around so that I could poke my rider again and I said PUMPKIN GOT TO EAT GRASS!  YOU SAID GRASS, I HEARD YOU!!!

And then guess what?

My rider said Huey, it is your lucky day.  And she untied me from the hitching post, and then guess where we went?  Right.  We went right over to the paddock Pumpkin had been eating in!  And not like yesterday, when I had to wear my halter and my rider held the rope!  I could not believe it!! We went right into that paddock, and my rider took off my halter.  And she left me there!  By myself! To eat all the grass I wanted!!!  It was the Best Day Ever!!!

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I made sure to taste grass from every part of that paddock! I do not know which part was my favorite, but I hope I am going to get a chance to find out!

This Is Being A Good Day For Running!

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Well, I have been very busy this week!  I had to take a lot of poky ride because of my leg, and then the person came and made my back go POP.  And today, my rider came with another person.  I have met that other person before.  He was there when I had the big, pointless bath. I do not think that he knows much about horses, because he looks at me like he thinks I am going to eat him.  I have said to him, Person, I am a horse, and horses only eat stuff that grows from the ground.  And sticky balls.  And sometimes we just sort of chew on things.  But we are not like dogs, we do not eat meat.  But I do not think he can speak Horse because he acts like he cannot hear me.  He can hear my rider, though.  And I do not mind him even though he acts sneaky, because most of the time, my rider gives him a treat for me.

Today, we were in the barn and my rider was taking off my old hair and a bunch of my nice dirt, and the person walked past me.  I put my nose out because I thought he might have a treat.  He put his hand out, but there was not a treat in it.  There was a ZAP.

That is right.  My rider’s person ZAPPED me on the nose!  Can you believe this?  My rider was on the other side so she did not see it, but jumped up in the air, and I made my Mad Noise with my nose all squished tight, and I frowned.  And my rider said Huey! What is this! And I said HE ZAPPED ME.  So she told him not to do it again, and I said That is right! You do not do that again!

Well, one ZAP on the nose can really make a horse cranky!  And so I stood there and I got pink stinky stuff that took more of my dirt off, and every time my rider made nice, I said I am not happy about that ZAP.  So then she called that other person back in, and gave him a treat, and said Now give that to Huey.

Well, I did not want to touch that person again, but a treat is a treat.  So I stretched my nose out and he stretched his hand out and there was the treat, it was the kind that tastes like a carrot even though it is not a real carrot.  And I went to pick it up with my lips, and you know what happened then?

RIGHT.  I got ZAPPED.  AGAIN!!!!!!

I jumped and I made my Mad Noise and I made an Angry Face at that person and at my rider because he was there with her.  And I said Rider! I do not want that person to ZAP me again!  I am not getting touched any more!!!!!  And she said Huey, you are a Drama Queen.  But I know that it is not nice to get a ZAP and it will not happen again, today at least.  So I said Well, OK.

And then it was time to go in the little pen and run around.  I like that better than running around on the lunge line.  The lunge line is heavy on my face.  When I go in the little pen, I do not have to wear the lunge line, and it is more fun.  Also, that little ring?  It has grass on the edge.  And if I am very careful I can reach the grass with my lips.  And if I can reach the grass with my lips, I can reach it with my teeth!!!

I like grass as much as I like carrots.  Even more, maybe.

So we went into that little ring, and I waited until I was behind my rider and then I put my head waaaay down to see if I could get some grass with my lips.  I did not think she was watching, but she was! And she said HUEY.  TROT.  I have to listen when she uses that voice, so I trotted.  I was not happy about it though!  And then, even worse, there was a big flappy thing on the fence!  It waved at me! It made a creepy noise!  I did not like that thing on the fence!!!

So I stayed away from it, but my rider? She did not notice it! And she tried to make me go by it!  Talk about unfair.  I ran by that thing as fast as I could. Which was not very fast, because it is a very tiny ring.  But I still ran!  Then my rider realized about it, and she told me to stop, and made me walk over and look at the thing.  She said This is just plastic, Huey.  And I said Plastic does not wave at you.  And she said Well, this is special plastic that is made to wave so that Big Strong Horses like you can prove that you are not afraid!

Well.  I am a Big Strong Horse.  And I was afraid of it.  But I did not want to say so.  But I did not run away and I did not lay my ears back.  But I did not walk up and touch it with my nose, either.  The rider touched it and then she touched me, and then we both stood there and watched it wave and flap while she scratched my neck.  Then I still did not want to touch it but I was not scared of it either.  I just did not want to touch it is all.  So she made me walk and trot some more.  I did not run away from it this time, though!

And then it was time to actually ride.  We have not done any interesting riding AT ALL since the winter ended.  My rider was all worried about my leg, and yeah, it was sore for a while, but I think it is OK now. The special shoes the farrier made just for me help!  But still.  It is one poky ride after another, and they are very short. I spend more time getting brushed to have my old hair off than I do riding in the ring!  It is so boring!!!!

Today, it was going to be different, though.  I knew.  First, my rider said We are going to trot today, Huey!  And I said I have already been trotting!  I just trotted in that little ring!  But she said I mean we are going to ride and trot, Huey.  Well, that was good.  And, when my rider got up, she gave me a little squeeze that told me to do a good walk, not a poky walk.  I marched around that ring!

And, she was right.  Then she user her seat to say Trot, Huey!  I did! I made a very good trot!  Not a poky trot!  A big one!  And we went around and she said to walk, so we did that too.  It was a good thing, because it has not rained in ages and dust comes up and gets in my nose and makes me sneeze and cough.  I can sneeze and cough at a trot, but it is better to do that when I am walking.

That was such a good trot that when the rider asked me to trot again, I gave her a great trot.  I was trotting like a rocket!!!  We were going very fast, and I said This is more like it!! Now I am a fast horse!! And then we had to walk again.

Well.  The rider’s person was there sitting outside the ring, and he really does not know much about horses! Because every time we trotted, you know what he said?  He said Are you cantering?  That is silly!  Who can mix up a trot and a canter?  And every time, my rider said No, that is not a canter!

And you know what?  All that talk talk talk about cantering gave me an idea.  I bet you can guess what that idea was, too!!

So the next time my rider asked me to trot, I cantered instead.  It has been ages and ages since I got to ride at a canter!  I love to canter!  I am very good at cantering!  I could canter all the way to the moon!!!

But my rider, who is mean because she makes me go on too many poky walking rides, made me stop cantering.  She said I asked you to trot, Huey.  And I did not say anything at all.  I just waited, because I knew she was going to ask me to trot again.  And she did.  And guess what I did?  That’s right!  I cantered again!!  And this time, I knew she was going to try to make me stop and I did not want to stop.  And when she used her hands to try to make me stop, I ignored them.  I told myself that if she really meant for us to stop, she would say so with her seat.

And, she did.  She said so with her seat, and I bounced a few more times and then it was her seat and her hands and her voice, and she was saying HUEY.  WE DO NOT CANTER TOGETHER YET.  She made me stand there while she told me a bunch of stuff that I did not feel like listening to.  I was just waiting for her to ask for a trot again, so I could canter some more.  She was ready for that, though, and I had to just trot.  Trotting is boring.

Well, then we were done, and she took me into the barn and she said We have to talk, Huey.  She said You tried to run away with me, Huey, what were you doing?  And I said It was because I am bored and I do not want to do any more poky walks, and trotting is OK but cantering is much more fun.  And she said But Huey, you know I am not a good enough rider to canter with you!  You are a big horse! And I said But you did not fall off.  And she said No, I did not.  But you are my Special Horse, and I take care of you.  And I am your Special Person, and you have to take care of me too.  And that means you do not run off when I am riding you.  That is not being careful.  You could have hurt me a lot.  But I just said You did not fall off.  And I could tell you were not going to fall off.  You are good enough to canter with me.  I know that.  We should do that!  And she said Maybe you are right.  But you can not run off!  You have to listen to me, whether it is my seat or my hands or my voice!  So I said OK.  I will try to remember not to run off again.  But we need to do some more running and do some interesting stuff!  Now!!  So she said she would see about making some lessons for us.

And then I got some apple treats, and NO ZAP, and I got to go back and eat hay in my paddock.  But I am going to run around a bunch real soon!!

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This is my Mad Face. Today I used it when I got ZAPPED. I did not think I was ever going to be excited about lessons, but I am. That is what too many poky short rides will do for a horse.

The “C” Word

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Well, Huey the Wonder Horse is on the mend.  Yesterday was the first day that it was OK to ask him for a trot under saddle, and when I did, he gave me the World’s Most Anemic Trot, and dropped out of it like a rock, stopping cold on his forehand and cramming my fork into the pommel.  Ouch.  So I walked him some more, and then asked him for another trot, and got another utterly listless four steps and another trip into the pommel.  Ouch.

Then I had to ask the question “Why”.  Why was he not taking off with the trot?  Why was he stopping like that?  The obvious answer was “Because he is still injured and I shouldn’t be trotting him yet.”  But, recall, this is the Wonder Horse.  And one thing that Wonder Horses do is listen v-e-r-y c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y to their rider’s seat, and to their rider.  There are plenty of times when he hears me telling him something before I realize I’m even saying anything.  I’ve been taking advantage of our many short poky rides at a walk to work on a couple of things, one of which is getting to the bottom of his response speed.  And, after quite a bit of experimentation, I can safely say that no, it is NOT something I am doing with my hand, and no, I am NOT making any conscious signals with my seat.  And yes, really, ALL I have to do is to think “let’s make a circle” and he does it.  Or “let’s go left” and he does it.  He will respond like that even if I’m parked in the saddle like a dead-weight sack of potatoes.

I don’t know how he does it.

What I do know is that he’s a Roaring Success so far as a Schoolmaster for a School of One: I have to pay the closest, tightest attention to what I am thinking and where I am looking at every bloody second I’m on his back, because where my mind goes, so does his.  And where his mind goes, his body is going to follow, in very short order.  I’ve never had to focus this hard in my life, and that includes skiing black diamonds on ice.

So while the obvious explanation for the Anemic Trot was that he wasn’t up to it and should not be pushed forward, a competing hypothesis raised its head:  that I was afraid to ask for the trot because I was afraid I would break him (again) and that where my mind goes, so does his.  And that he was picking up some kind of “please trot only don’t because I’m afraid” vibe.

It’s difficult.  It could either be my personal problem and I just need to get my head right…OR…he was still injured.  The right answer was either to trot plenty OR not to trot at all.  Ooof.

Fortunately, I have an awesome trainer, and she was able to deliver a definitive answer by hopping up on his back.  He already considers her to be some kind of Supreme Being, and she gave him a nice reminder of what it means to be carrying around a Minor Deity. He smartened right up, I’ll say, and she trotted him cleanly a few times in each direction around the ring.  So.  Answer: it was me, not him.  So now, we trot.   And I’ll just go get some Girlfriend Therapy to help deal with the conviction that I broke him and the fear that I’ll do it again.

In the meantime, the chiropractor came this morning. Good timing, too, because the Wonder Horse had gotten into some funky biomechanics over the last several weeks.   I was explaining these as I untacked him, and offered to do a c, a, r, r, o, t stretch to illustrate the point.

I said, “I have to spell it because he knows the word.”  And he does.  Huey has a limited number of Tracks in his brain.  One of them is the Hay Track.  And another is the All Horses Must Regard Me With Wonder And Awe Track.  There’s a Grain Track, but it’s not as big as the Hay Track.

But the biggest track of all is long, pointy, and bright orange.  The Carrot Track.

Huey has demonstrated, several times, and definitively, that he both knows the word “carrot” and he knows what it means.  If I say “carrot” it means there is a carrot. For him.  Here. Now.  The Carrot Track is irresistible to him, and once he falls into it, he doesn’t come out of it again.  Not until the carrot shows up.  And maybe even not then, if he thinks there might be another one.

If I utter the syllables “ca” “rot” then I’d better be prepared to deliver one, ASAP.  He’s like a four year old that has just heard the words “ice cream cone.”  You parents know this.  You either don’t tell the kids you’re going out for ice cream, and let them discover it when you get there…or you tell them approximately 90 seconds before it becomes obvious that you’re going out for ice cream.  Why?  Because from the moment you say “ice cream” to the moment the cone itself is handed out of the little window, it’s going to be “ICE CREAM!  ICE CREAM!!  When are we going?  ICE CREAM!!  Are we there yet?  When are we getting it?  Mom?  ICE CREAM!!  Mom?  When is the ice cream?  Now? Mom? Now? Mom, mom, mom! What about now?  Is it yet?  ICE CREAM!! ICE CREAM!!”

And, really, who wants to participate in that scene for more than 2 minutes?

Huey is exactly the same way.  Only he’s…physical.  So instead of hopping all over the furniture and racing around the house shrieking, he engages in a ceaseless routine of bonking me with his nose, poking his nose at any place I might have a pocket that is concealing the carrot.  And as far as he is concerned, I could have pockets anywhere on my clothes.  And the whole time, he’s saying “Carrot! You said Carrot!  I want my carrot!  Where is it?  My carrot?  Mom? My carrot?  Mom, mom, mom! You said carrot!!!”

And, really, who wants to participate in that scene for more than 2 minutes?

In much the same way that parents deal with this issue, by saying “Let’s go for i, c, e, c, r, e, a, m” to each other, so do I deal with the c, a, r, r, o, t, s.

So there I am, in the barn, saying “Would you like to see him do a c, a, r, r, o, t stretch?  I have to spell it because he knows the word.”  And the chiro says “Soon he’ll learn to spell it too!” and, by golly, he did.

No sooner were these words out of my mouth, than he’s craning his head around, bonking me with his nose, and attempting to investigate my clothing.  And, by golly, saying “Mom!  You said a word that means the same thing as carrot!  I want a carrot!  Where is it?  My carrot?  I know it’s here!  Yousaid it!  Mom, mom, mom! You have a carrot!!!”

Good grief. The Wonder Horse has learned to spell.  What will it be next, “The C Word”?