Monthly Archives: May 2012

Now I Am The Best Horse Ever!!!!!!!

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Yesterday was not being such a good day, but today is being one of the best days ever!  Yesterday, my rider was gone for ages, again and then there she was when I was out in the paddock with a nice pile of hay, and she wanted to work. I was not feeling like working, and I said You were gone a long time.  She said I am sorry.  I missed you very much.  But today it is time for some exercise.  But I said It is hot and I do not feel like it.  But she made me go in the halter and get ready anyway.  The bugs have been TERRIBLE lately and they were even worse yesterday!!  I did not think I could hold still for all of that getting ready, but I had to anyway.  And then when we were riding, it was a lesson, which means I have to work HARD, and my rider wanted me to make a fast walk, but I wanted a slow walk.  Then we had to trot for hours.  AND this is the worst!  My rider through she should be holding the reins tight and using the bit a lot, and I thought she should not.  My rider said some Bad Words but she was not mad at me, she just said this is what she got for going off to play golf for days.  I do not know what playing golf is, but is not the same as riding horses, not unless those horses have lips that are made from rocks.  My lips are soft, and not like rocks at all, and I do not want that rider to yank on them.  So me and my rider argued all the time for the whole morning, and then we were both tired and I was sweating like crazy!!! I did not want to get brushed with my hair all wet, but the rider did not even try, she just took me outside and we had a shower.  That is like a bath without anything smelly, and without getting all the dirt off, and no combing.

I like the shower.  Especially since I do not get stuck to the hitching post.  When I get a shower, my rider just holds onto the rope and I get to move around as much as I want.  This is good, because I do not like to stand still.  It is also good because I found out that my rider will point the shower into the air, and that is like rain, only nicer, and THIS IS THE BEST:  I can put my head over that shower, and it will make a nice scratch under my chin where the bugs get me!!!  I cannot scratch that place with a hoof, and I cannot rub it on anything at all, so it never gets scratched!  I like that! Here is the not-so-good part of the shower.  Afterward, I had to get the water off my nose, and then my rider put something very stinky on it there.  I put my head up in the air and said I do not like that stuff, rider! But she said Huey, I have to put it here or the sun will burn your nose and make it hurt.   This is the least stinky stuff I could find, because I know that you do not like the smell!

Then I remembered this happened before, and it did hurt, every time I put my nose into my hay it was scratchy, so I said OK and I put my head down.  But I still do not like that smell.  But then we got to go eat some grass, so that was good.  We even got to go down to my special grass by the road, and we hardly ever do that!

Today, my rider came when I was still in my stall!  That was very early!  I said You are here early! And she said That is because it is going to be very hot again today, and I want us to get our exercise in while it is still nice.  So that is OK.  I was done with my grain anyway.

So this is what happened today.  I said Rider, I do not want you to yank on my lips.  They are soft, not like rocks.  And she said I do not want to yank on your lips either, but you have to put your head down and keep on the bit.  If you do that, I will not yank at all.

Well, I know how to do that, but it is harder to do that and I get tired.  But I did it anyway, and she did not yank.  Then we trotted for a while and then I thought maybe we would be done because we were walking.  The bugs were bothering me a lot even though I had my Wonder Horse Fly Mask on, so I shook my head.  The rider said You should stop doing that, because then I might yank on your lips.  I said It is not my fault.  It is all these bugs.  And she said If you are trotting you will not notice those bugs, and she made me trot.  She was right.  I did not notice the bugs any more after that.

Why not, Huey? I hear you saying.  The answer is this.  We trotted for a while, and then my rider sat down instead of going up and trotting and she squeezed me.  So I went faster.  And she squeezed me some more, so I went really fast.  Then she stopped squeezing me and told me to walk while we had a little talk.

Huey, she said. I did not know that you could trot that fast!

Oh yes, I said.  I am a very good trotter.  And you were telling me to trot faster!  And I am the Wonder Horse, so I did!

We walked for a minute, then I said But, rider, you were really bouncing on my back.  That is not very comfortable.  It is better when you go up and down.

She said Huey, I know, and I am sorry for bouncing on your back.  But here is the thing. I did not want you to trot like a speeding train.  I wanted you to canter.

But you were not asking me to canter, I said.

I realize that now, she said.  But I still want you to canter.

I do not know if that is a good idea, I said.  We are not having a lesson.  You have not ever cantered me without having a lesson.

It is a good idea, she said.  For one, I am going to be OK, and for another, we need to do it some time so it might be now.  But I do not want you to trot that fast and I do not want to bounce on your back.

So I told her that I thought that it might be better if we did not trot first, because that is where all the bouncy stuff happens, and that it might be better if I just cantered from a walk.

She said You can canter from a walk, Huey?

I said I am a jumping horse!  All jumping horses can canter from a walk!  We are very good at that!!

And she said OK. And because we were already walking, she put her leg back and touched my side –  none of that kicking and squeezing – and there we went.  It is much nicer to do it this way, I think.  And I was doing a Normal Canter, and she was cantering with me like a Normal Rider!!  No squeezing, no boot in the side, no yanking my mouth!  It was very good!!!!  And I think she thought so too because she said WOOO-HOOO HUEY!!!! and I remembered from last time that this means that same thing as “Keep Going!” so I did.  And then after we went around the ring a bunch of times, I thought she said to slow down with her seat so I started trotting and then we walked, and I got a HUGE pat on the neck, and my rider said HUEY! YOU ARE THE BEST HORSE EVER!!!

And I said But I thought I was the Wonder Horse.

And she said You are the Wonder Horse too!!!  You are GREAT!!!  Let’s do it in the other direction.  So we did.

Well.  Best Horse Ever.  That is really something you know!

When we went back into the barn, Bug put his head over the wall and said Hi Huey.  So I said Bug! I am the Best Horse Ever!!  But he said You are not.  And I said Yes I am!!  And he said Says who? So I put my nose in his face and I said SAYS ME! AND MY RIDER!! and I snorted at him really hard and I stamped my feet, just to show him, I am the Best Horse Ever.

But I forgot.  My rider was right there because we were walking into the barn, and she does not like it when I do that with other horses.  She made the rope snake bite me on the shoulder and said HUEY!! LEAVE IT. And then I remembered that she said this is dangerous, and I am not supposed to do it.

Bug said Ha Ha Ha Best Horse Ever, you are in trouble.

But I was not, and that is funny on Bug.  I got another shower.  And this time, my rider knew that I like to scratch with that water, so she put it up in the air for a long time, and I put my face right in it and I made my lip curl way up and said YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!  and then my rider laughed really hard, and then I got to eat more grass.  So this really is being a very good day!

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It is something special to be Best Horse Ever!! Even if Bug does not agree.

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Dressage: Not Just For The Wealthy Effete

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I don’t generally veer off into politics here (for all kinds of reasons) but it’s not even the hard-hitting Election Season, and I am already sick and tired of the media slanging off at Ann Romney over her Horse Habit, and for slanging off on Dressage, in general.  It’s the easiest damned thing in world to knock on the Romneys for being entirely out of touch with the other 99.99%, because – every time either one of them opens their mouths – it becomes completely clear that they are living on another planet.

But, for pete’s sake, can we keep the horses out of it?

Yes.  Owning a horse is bloody expensive.  So is owning a boat, and having a kid.  Having a horse is a lot like having a kid, and an unending stream of money flowing out of the checking account is only one of those ways.  I’d argue that horses are considerably less expensive than kids.  They don’t usually outgrow their tack.  They destroy their garments at a slower rate – usually – than rambunctious boys do.  If you have to send them for tutoring, it’s for less time and less frequently than it is when a kid needs some special training.  They eat a ton of stuff, but that stuff?  It’s hay.  Dried grass.  Maybe a little bit of grain or carrots to juice things up.  But it’s not nearly as expensive, dollar-per-pound as Kid Food.  You don’t have to send them to college.  Even if you start showing, it’s not that much more costly than having a kid that plays three sports on traveling teams, and that kind of thing is getting more common all the time.

But do we hear people slamming [insert public figure here] for having an expensive Kid Habit?  Other than Brangelina and the Octomom, that is?

Not usually.

But people hear “horse” and they don’t necessarily think “10-year-old kid who works every afternoon at the barn to help pay for their critter’s board” and they don’t necessarily think “college student who works every afternoon at the barn to pay for their critter’s board” and they don’t think “middle-aged woman who has put off this dream for 30 years until the kids are out of the nest” and they don’t think “ranch hand who rides the horse because there are plenty of places on the spread that the truck can’t go” and they don’t think “disabled vet who can’t move around independently but can get a taste of freedom through hippotherapy” and they don’t think “victim of multiple sclerosis who rides to work on balance, muscle strength, and spasticity in the hopes of avoiding a life in a wheelchair.”

The vast majority of horse owners fall into categories like those, including Ann Romney, but that’s not where people automatically “go” when they think Horse Owner.

No.  They think Pampered Princess, Living In The Gold-Covered Tower.  Which Ann Romney also is, but that has little or nothing to do with being a Horse Owner.

I don’t appreciate the media’s attempt to whip up some kind of cultural economic frenzy against Horse Owners. And if they’re going to do that, I want to see them whipping it up over every other expensive hobby, including boats, golf, stamp, coin, and antique collecting, and having kids.  They’re all choices about how you’re going to spend your time and your money, and those choices aren’t restricted to people who are born with the Silver Spoon.  We all make those decisions.

While I’m at it, I really don’t appreciate the media’s characterization of Dressage as being some kind of effete prancy horse ballet.  According to an insinuating and insulting article in this morning’s New York Times, dressage is a sport in which ” horses costing up to seven figures execute pirouettes and other dancelike moves for riders wearing tails and top hats.”

Oh?  Really? Because to me dressage is an “extremely challenging sport where riders and horses costing $600  get the opportunity to develop communication skills that are the next thing to telepathic, and execute very complicated moves including bends, serpentines, 20-meter circles, and pirouettes for riders wearing a pair of stained and (slightly torn) $40 riding tights, a Chuy’s t-shirt, and a pair of battered paddock boots and decrepit half-chaps. Oh, yeah, and a helmet.

‘Cuz you know what?  That’s what I was wearing this morning when I was out doing dressage with my 18 yo retired show jumper for whom I paid a whopping $600, and – I would like to get onto the record right away – I would not trade for any other damn horse in the world.

Now, if (when) I compete at dressage with Huey, he’s going to be wearing a saddle that cost 4 times what he did, and he’s going to be doing some 20 meter circles and leg yields.  And I’ll be wearing I don’t-even-kn0w-what, because I think you can get away with half-chaps and paddock boots at the BFE levels I expect to see.  And even if I were able through some combination of miracles to compete at high levels like Ann Romney, I wouldn’t be wearing a bloody tail-coat, I’d be wearing a shadbelly.

Get it right, journalistic idiots.  If you’re doing to put the smack-down on an entire sporting field with a 500 year history, you need to do your homework.  Better yet, go find someone else to pick on.

Another thing.  If I had access to buckets of money like Ann Romney does and a passion for horses and dressage like I share with her then you bet I’d be jaunting to Europe to buy papered Oldenburg foals, or Dutch Warmbloods, or Selle Francais.   That’s a no-brainer.  I wouldn’t trade any of those for my boy, and it sounds like she had a great horse that she didn’t want to give up either.  But as much as I hate to say it, even if I wanted to compete at high levels and had the ability to do it (neither of which I do), I don’t think I’d be able to do it with Huey The Wonder Horse.  I love him to the moon and back, and no horse will ever be able to replace him, ever, but he’s had his time in the sun with competitions, and what he deserves now – and what suits me to a T – is to have fun and to do a little bit of purely recreational showing.  No.  If I wanted to Fly High, I’d have to go to Europe – because anyone who knows anything about this area knows that the European stud-books and European breeders are where it’s at.  And I’d buy a few amazing foals, and have the bloody time of my life watching them get started by the trainer I’d be able to employ to do that, and I’d enjoy riding all of them until it became clear which of them was Really For Me.  And then we’d head for orbit, me and my seven-figure horse.  And I’d be doing it in California, where it’s never too hot or too cold to ride, and I’d have some stable with an awesome bungalow that I could have my friends come visit the horses and we’d all sit around in the evening on the patio having a drink and watching the horses – because what could be better than this? – and it would be some kind of incredibly posh place with a bunch of indoor rings, heck, let’s air-condition one of them – and a wash stall, and a shower in the tack room, and I’d have a Groom to deal with the nasty stuff that gums up the tail and to clean my tack, because I’d always rather ride than clean tack, and they’d wash the saddle pad after every ride and the horse would have one of those Back-On-Track blankets, and a bug zapper in the paddock, and an automatic watering trough, and…and…and…  It’s hard to think of some luxury I wouldn’t want for me and my horses if I were basically Made Out Of Money.

I’ll go out on the limb, and guess that every horse person who reads this post is now thinking of some package of pampery luxuries they’d get if Money Was No Object, and considering how many horses they’d have – I don’t see myself going above 4, tops, because there are only so many hours in the day, you know, but I expect there are plenty of people who would have a much larger herd.

Honestly? There are a lot of things about the Romneys of which I do not approve, but Ann Romney’s full and free indulgence of her Every Horsey Dream is not on that list.

And dressage?  It’s hard,Media Morons.  It’s about finesse instead of Raw Power.  You want to go deliver the smack down to some part of the horse industry?  Smack down the irresponsible breeders who fill up the kill pens.  Smack down the racing industry for overbreeding excessively fragile Thoroughbreds.  Or, hey, you want something you can really get your teeth into and whip up a public frenzy over?  SORING.  Go let loose a big cultural blast on the savage and reckless idiots who do that with the Tennessee Walking Horses.  Get out of my arena, and quit making me and the rest of the working-week riders, which is nearly all of us, out to be a bunch of entitled, elitist, namby-pamby relics.  Or I’ll kick you.

Act 2, Scene 1

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Golf Camp Day 2 delivered on everything I needed it to.  Rain, mess, blown shots: basically, a small window opened in the fabric of reality and shot us all into our Future As Golfers.

Fortunately, most of the rain happened on either side of the 9 to 3 window that was Golf Camp for the day.  This meant that we all needed jackets because the skies were in a constant state of Threat Level: Orange.  This doesn’t sound nearly as bad as it was, for a combination of reasons.

The obvious thing, right, is to just wear the jacket all the time.  The basic challenge to that approach is that the climate was on rapid-cycle bipolar: for one five minute stretch, it would be drizzling (wear the jacket or get wet), for the next, the clouds would open up and let some sun through for a rapid warming effect (take the jacket off or swelter), and for the next, the clouds would return sans rain but with a friendly little cutting breeze (wear the jacket or freeze).  There was also the option of a combination of the above.  So even a simple, straightforward hike would have been an extended series of take the jacket off, put the jacket on, take it back off, put it back on, take it off, rinse, lather, repeat.

A further challenge was presented by the fact that we were not on a simple, straightforward hike.  We were walking (sometimes driving) from point A to learn and practice Golf Skill 1 to point B to learn and practice Golf Skill 2 to point C to learn and practice Golf Skill 3, etc.  My experience was that any of the Golf Skills were virtually impossible to execute with a jacket on unless that jacket was fully zipped up.  There are so very many ways to screw up a golf swing or a putt, and one of those is certainly to get the flapping tails of a jacket tangled up with the club.  Some of the other stuff, like the “full swing” (which is opposed to the “half swing,” the “toe-up swing,” the “chip,” the “putt,” and the “blast”) were impossible for me to execute in a jacket, because the jackets didn’t give me the range of motion I wanted in either my shoulders or my hips.

And, given the heavy dependence golf seems to place on Field of Vision, there could be no serious question of wearing the hood.

Beyond this, what with moving about so frequently, taking the jacket off presented its own difficulties in Where To Put The Blasted Thing.  It was easy for the (very short) time that we had a golf cart.  There’s a rack in the back of the cart that appears made with the intent of receiving wadded-up jackets.  Unsurprising, as there is also a rack in the cart that has been made specifically to hold a bunch of golf balls, and it has tiny little holes in it as well for the purpose of suspending tees.  But for the rest (majority) of the time when we didn’t have the golf cart, the jacket shell-game turned into “Where can I put this thing on the ground so that I won’t lose it?”

It is surprisingly easy to lose things on a golf course.  I don’t just mean hitting the ball into a forest or a lake.  I mean losing stuff like clothing and clubs.  I nearly lost my jacket twice, and that was only on the driving range and putting grounds.  The Pro told us that at the end of the season, the clubhouse would have custody of something like 300 clubs that had been left out on the course.  He actually showed us tricks to minimize the probability that some of those Lost Clubs would be ours.

So, Lesson One for the day: How To Leave The Course With Everything You Came With.

In addition to learning how not to lose our personal belongings, we did also – happily – learn How To Use The Golf Course.  Even more happily, this included a lesson in How To Use The Golf Cart.  A surprising number of people in our group were intimidated by the golf cart.  For me, however, it has been a long-term desire to pilot one of those things around.  It’s a tiny, slow, Off-Road Vehicle.  Huey moves faster than the golf cart, and that’s even only at his extended walk.  He’s also bigger than the golf cart, come to think of it.  So there we are, broken into two groups of two (married couples separate because our Pro was not born yesterday).  And the Pro? Riding the back bumper of the cart like a street urchin hitching a ride from a trolley.  Off we went, over hill, over dale, to the 17th tee, where we learned several valuable lessons:

There are a bunch of places you can tee off from, and the decision is driven by sexism (a separate and easier “Ladies’ Tee”) and ageism (a separate and even easier “Senior Citizens’ Tee”). The “real” golfers (men) tee off from a Hard Place and the Super Golfers (professionals) tee off from the other side of the planet.  Our group being what it was, the Pro told us we’d all be teeing off from the same place, and a Yiddisher Debate instantly sprung up over whether we were “more like” a group of women, or “more like” a group of senior citizens.  Roy was on the Senior Citizen side.  I was not.  Being who and what I am, I felt that teeing off from any spot other than the “Mens’ Tee” would be a Disgrace…yet I had to acknowledge that my drive was such that I’d be lucky to knock the ball from the Mens’ Tee to the Ladies’ Tee, let alone get it onto the fairway.  Ultimately, we concluded that the Ladies’ Tee would be the appropriate spot.

The Pro taught us how the Real Golfers decide who goes first, which involves flipping a tee.  No, really, it does.  Whoever the pointy end of the tee faces, goes first.  Repeat until the tee has pointed at everyone but one, that person goes last.  Then we learned about the “scramble” – a concept that everyone in the group took to instantly.  I know how Lori’s Rules of Putt-Putt operate, which is that I take the lowest score on the hole, regardless of who actually hit the ball, and that everyone has an unlimited number of “mulligans” (do-overs).  I assumed that for Real Golf, you just hit the ball until it got into the hole, and that Real Golfers would not respond well to the Lori Takes The Lowest Score at every hole, and that I had to deal with Cold Hard Reality.  Which, for me, would be Par 25 on every hole, given my lack of ability to drive the ball and my erratic putting.  It was clear, as the Pro introduced the “scramble” that my concerns had been equally shared among the other members of our little tribe.  The “scramble” – I love it that this is common enough that there’s an official word for it – means that everyone hits a ball, and the group picks the best one, and everyone else puts their ball there and hits from that position for the next shot.  It’s like “best out of four” on every shot.  And you wind up with only one score.  Which has the collateral benefit of reducing the score, eliminating lengthy searches for the ball in a lake, forest, bog, or swamp, and speeding up the game.

Lesson Two for the Day:  How To Suck At Golf Without Pissing Off Everyone Else On The Course.

It’s a truism that everyone sucks at golf, except for the pros.  The question for me is not “Will I suck at golf?” because the obvious and clear answer is “Yes”.  Why should I be unlike every other non-golf-professional citizen of the planet.  The question for me was “Will I suck at golf so badly that I make a public nuisance of myself and must either never use a golf course, or hang my head in shame and disgrace if I do?”

Thanks to the “scramble” – and to our Pros earnest recommendation that whoever is ready to take their shot is the next person to shoot – the answer to that question is “No”.

What a relief.  I’ll be able to golf on a course.

We were told that the raison d’etre of the “scramble” is Corporate Golf Tourneys and Charity Functions – both of which, as an accounting professor, I actually have cause to attend from time to time.  Apparently, my concern about sucking so badly that I make a disgraceful nuisance of myself is common enough to keep warm bodies out of these events, so the general consensus about how to deal with those (tremendously valid) concerns is just to ensure that there is no individual score, and that the game keeps on moving along.  I can get behind this 100 percent.  As can Roy, who has vowed that any golf playing we do in the foreseeable future will be “scramble” style.  This also works well with the tremendously valuable advice from our Pro to not keep score at all…for, he said, “at least a year.”

Our experiences at the 17th hole drove home all of these lessons, and a few more.  After the intense debate – to the orchestra of sound from the complicated Golf Course Grooming Machines, and the pitter-patter of drizzle – we all teed off.  To my utter shock, I hit a decent one and drove my ball a halfway reasonable amount of distance down the course.  To my total lack of shock, the blasted thing went well wide of center and landed in the rough.  One person made a usable hit.  Another dribbled the ball out of the tee box and down a hill.  And Roy?  Wailed away with his powerful yet frequently inaccurate drive, and sent the ball shooting away through the fog.  And, even with all four of us watching, we couldn’t see where it had went.

There’s nothing like trying to track a speeding white ball 2″ in diameter through a fog, I tell you.

Since my years of playing tennis with Roy have taught me a lot about his high-velocity yet minimally-accurate projectiles, I was fairly certain the thing had shot off into the fog to the right, even further than my ball had gone to the right.  Another member of our party, however, was convinced that they’d seen the ball land well over to the left.  An extended debate up there on the tee box in the fog ensued.  Ultimately, the Pro ushered us into the carts and we took off.  Roy decided he would prefer to learn to use the cart under my tolerant and (now) expert eye.  I suggested he stick with the Pro like everyone else had.  An extended debate on the cart path in the fog ensued.  Ultimately, Roy took the wheel and started rolling us down the path.  I kept an eagle eye out in the area I suspected Roy’s ball would have landed, and was rewarded by the vision of an unusually white and tiny patch of the fog.  I leapt out of the (moving) golf cart and launched away towards it. “I FOUND YOUR BALL! IT’S OVER HERE TO THE RIGHT!” I said, immediately before sinking in up to my arches in some kind of grassy swamp.  Recall that I mentioned that the rain mainly affected the hours after and before our Golf Camp.  My sneaker instantly filled with nasty brackish muddy water.

“UGH!!!!” I said, several times, as I continued to hop over towards the ball.   I retrieved it, and then my own ball, from the bog, and rejoined the crowd.  The Pro said he would have got the balls, but I wasn’t too sure I’d have been able to find it again in the fog.  Then we all hit from the position of the only decent shot off the tee.  That guy’s ball went directly into the water on the second shot.  CHING! One down.  The other three shots resulted in one that was obviously poor, and two that were debatable.

So we had a debate.  Another one.  We’re not even to the FAIRWAY and we’ve already had three debates.

Lesson Three: Don’t Go Golfing With People You Hate To Argue With.

This part, I was happy to find, was just like Putt-Putt.

We played another half of a hole before we needed to adjourn to the driving range.  I had a similar set of experiences as the day before, to wit: every once in a while, I’d hit the ball exactly right, which fueled the desire to hit another 40 balls until it happened again.  Me and every other person on the driving range.  All of us, like rats in a cage with a lever that dispenses an occasional treat if it’s pressed frequently enough.  This time, I was thinking about the video from the day before, and attempting to remedy some of the more obvious problems, but I was still getting a pain in my mid-back from crouching over the ball.  Oy.

From there, we learned about the “bunker”.  The “bunker” is the formal name for the “sand trap” – i.e., that huge pool of yellow sand that interrupts the sweeping green contours of the golf course.   We used the bunker to learn the “pitch” which is pretty similar to the “chip” except that you use a different club and you bend your wrist.  I did not do well at the “pitch”.  Ultimately, the Pro came to help trouble shoot this situation, said “STOP. What club is this?”  Now, there are about 100 different kinds of clubs.  I’m sure the real number is much lower, but it feels like 100 of them.  I looked at the bottom of the club where the number is written, and I said “It says 5”.  “You can’t pitch with a Five Iron!” he said. “That’s next to impossible! No wonder!” and gave me another club that looked like it said “5” on the bottom.

“That’s not a 5,” he said. “It’s an S.”

An “S”? Without going into the question of why it’s even possible to have an “S” that can be confused for a “5”…why “S”?  Everything else has numbers.
“S is for Sand” the Pro said.

Oh.  S is for Sand.  Naturally.  S is for Sand.  Then the penny dropped.  The bunker.  S is for Sand, which fills the bunker.  Ah.  A special club for hitting the ball when it goes into the sand.

At a certain point, one just stops asking pointless questions like “why”.

He was right, pitching with the Sand club was a whole lot easier.  When I wasn’t accidentally digging my club into the grass and displacing a huge chunk of it There is, naturally, a special term for that, too: the “divot.” There is something sold in the Pro shop called a “divot tool” but I don’t know why I’d want one of those when it’s abundantly clear that I am perfectly capable of manufacturing a “divot” with my own clubs, including my “wood” (which I have been told should not be possible).  Then we learned another golf swing, the “blast” which is how you get the ball out of the sand once it’s there.  Again, I seemed to have a disproportionate amount of difficulty with this one.

As we stood about, debating again, after the Pitching and Bunker Lesson, the penny finally dropped on why I was having so much trouble.  Everyone had unconsciously adopted that jaunty Golfing Pose where the golfer rests the head of the club on the grass and leans slightly on the handle of it with an outstretched hand.  And as I noted this, I noted another thing too:  that the two guys – who were both of a height…as I am as well, being built on the Amazon line – weren’t tilting to execute this pose…but I was.  I asked them both to stand up straight and show me where the club hit them on the arm:  for both, the top of the club came up well over the wrist.

My club didn’t even come up to the wrist.

Why?  Because, dammit, when they’d tricked me out with a set of Loaner Clubs, the person who did this took one look at my midsection, noted the mammaries, and said “Ladies’ Clubs”.

Without also noticing that I am average height for a man.

So this whole time, I’d been using a set of clubs that were a full inch-and-a-half too short.  Which explains the whiffing, it explains why getting my club in the proper position required crouching or a deep knee bend, and why it is my middle back that is aching from the swings.

Lesson Four: Be Sure The Clubs Are The Right Height.

The longest club in the bag is the Number One.  It’s “the driver”.  The one that Real Golfers use to hit the ball off the tee, because it has the most power in the pack, partly because of its length.  And in my bag, the Number One was the length that a bunch of the driving irons should be for my height.  I switched off to that one on the driving range, and it’s amazing how much that improved things.

So that was Golf Camp.  As soon as we finished, it started raining in earnest.

It seems that Roy’s request that we Take Up Golf as a couple is going to carry the day. We stopped on the way home to get golf shoes.

FORE!

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We have concluded Day 1 of Golf Camp.  Golf Camp was Roy’s idea.  He felt that we should have a joint hobby, instead of the assortment of individual hobbies we have at present.  I’m not totally sure how he settled on “golf” as a front-runner for this joint hobby.  He arrived at this Master Plan of Taking Up Golf Together in the middle of the winter, of all times, and the Go To Golf Camp Plan followed pretty quickly thereupon.  So here we are, attending a 2-day Golf Camp, as a pair of never-evers.  He is technically not a “never” ever, having done something once that he refers to as “Pitch-N-Putt” – I have no idea what this is, but it evidently took his fancy in a strong way about twenty years ago.   For myself, I refuse to count the numerous trips I’ve made to the Putt-Putt (or, as they call it around here, Mini-Golf).  I am a huge fan of Putt-Putt, especially the courses that involve things like giant sculptured dinosaurs, or windmills where you have to knock the ball through a hole while avoiding the rotating blades.

Golf Camp has proven remarkably devoid of giant dino sculptures and rotating fairway elements.  Actually, so far, it’s proven pretty devoid of actual fairways.  This is because we have a small cadre of never-evers, and before this morning, I did not know how to hold a club.  We spent a good long time on a putting green.  It was covered with very short fine grass and had a lot of holes in the ground with little flags on poles stuck in each hole.  I have seen these flags in Putt-Putt, but we always took them out of the hole before trying to put the ball into the hole.  This is not what we did this morning.

After we got the hang of putting, or at least, we used up all of the time that was allocated for putting, we moved on to “chipping”.  Putting involves a “putter”, which looks exactly like the Putt-Putt club, except that the putter is not covered with a rubber coating.  Chipping is something you do with an “iron”, which is actually made out of “steel”.  This differentiates that club from a “wood” which is actually made out of “steel” as well, unless it’s made out of “titanium”.  In no case is the “wood” made out of “wood”.

Everyone says it’s easy to be lousy at golf, but no one mentioned that you need to learn a foreign language along the way.

So there we are, learning “chipping”.  Chipping is what you do when you need to putt, except that the ball is not sitting on grass that is short enough for putting.  It is, instead, sitting on the “fringe” the “apron” or “that area around the putting place that is covered with grass that is longer than the putting place but not as long as the fairway”.  I came up with the last one myself.  You have to swing the iron, which has a little line on the top of the “head”, which is really the “bottom”, between the “toe” (which is the end of the “head”) and the “heel” (which is the back of the “head” where it is stuck on the stick, which is not really a stick at all, but a “shaft”.  There’s something in between the shaft and the head but I didn’t catch the name of that thing.  It sounded strangely German.).  You line everything up and you make a very short swing – this should be a very short swing, because if you swing it even as much as you swing the club for Putt-Putt, you will send your ball rocketing away at the speed of light, across the green and into the “rough”, which looks like an ill-kempt backyard lawn.  I learned this about 500 times.  You also have to hit the grass and make a “pfut” noise with your club on the grass.

After that, it was time to learn to “drive” which does not involve a golf cart, boo, but involves another “iron” and a “wood”.  It is also where the “tee” comes into play.  Roy turned out to be surprisingly effective at driving, using the exact same motion (as far as I could see) that he employs when returning a tennis ball or hitting a baseball in the batting cage.  The Golf Pro indicated that this was Not Optimal, but Roy was the most successful at moving the balls in the desired direction and to the desired distance.  I disgraced myself repeatedly by “whiffing” – delivering a bitchin’ swing while completely failing to make contact with the actual ball.  I think of it as an “air shot”, or, more simply, “dammit”.  I did get the hang of the “follow-through” pretty quickly.  That is the part where you wrap the club all the way around and wind up with your back toe pointing into the ground and gazing down the ball’s trajectory with a Serious and Calculating Expression.

This is a golf swing follow-through. This is not me. You can tell because 1) I would no be caught dead wearing a suit of black with white shoes, 2) the visor has got to go, and 3) this is a man (I think).

I had persistent problems with my balls either blooping 8 feet away after I’d walloped them, or getting some air and velocity, but shooting off to my right instead of going straight.  This is a “draw” or a “fade” but I’m not sure which, because it involves different directions for lefties versus righties.  Yeah.

Fortunately, I was able to find out why both of these things were happening, because Day 1 concluded with a short video shoot and a group analysis of the shots in slow-mo.  I was happy to realize that – even if I cannot seem to do it properly – I was able to immediately identify the source of both of these problems.  I will not, however, bore you with the Details.

Here are my big take-aways from Day 1 of Golf Camp:

1. Your feet will get wet.  I did not want to invest in Golf Shoes until I knew whether or not Iliked golf, so I went through the day in a pair of canvas LLBean deck shoes, in a sunwashed nautical green.  Don’t laugh.  They went beautifully with my matching skort (mushroom) and golf shirt (dark green).  Looking good is Important.  Almost as important is that this pair of shoes, being deck shoes intended for use on an actual boat deck, has the best traction of any of my available shoe collection.  Unfortunately, they were saturated at the toe before we made it over to the putting green, and they didn’t dry out with further usage.  Golf is surprisingly wet.

2. It kills the back, but in ways I didn’t expect.  I would have thought the twisting stuff, but no.  If I heard it once today, I heard it fifty times, at me (and another fifty times per each of the other three members of my group):  DO NOT SWING WITH YOUR BACK.  SWING WITH YOUR HIPS.  Fortunately, I was the best at this out of our group of 4, so I don’t anticipate any screaming agony.  No.  The back-killing stuff comes from spending vast amounts of time crouched over the club and ball with your butt sticking out, your knees bent, and your arms hanging straight (STRAIGHT ARMS: another thing I heard fifty times) in front of you.

3. I thought there were a bunch of muscles that you only ever use for riding horses, but this is not true.  You use them also for golf.  All these weird muscles in your core, it’s the exact same stuff you use for posting the trot and riding a canter.  It was nice to be ahead of the game onsomething.

4. It is a serious work out.  I thought How taxing can this be, standing about for four or five hours and swinging a little club?  The answer is: Very.  I was wiped by lunchtime.  There isn’t going to be any difficulty about sleeping tonight, not unless the middle of my back and my hips and my forearms and my feet and my hands start to stiffen up.  The morning is going to be a real thrill, I can tell already.  We stopped at the grocery on the way back and bought a thumb of ginger to chew to head off the post-exertional muscle soreness.  And I have a tube of arnicare, and Roy – blast him – took a Preventive Advil before heading off to Golf Camp this morning, and took another one before dinner.  I wish like hell I could take that stuff, because Tylenol?  It’s a joke.  Maybe there are 10 people on the planet that Tylenol has any analgesic effect whatsoever on, but I sure am not one of them.

5. It is full of Jews.  On the way up this morning, Roy observed that he expected Golf Camp would be full of Jews.  I said “I hope not” and “why” in the same breath.  He replied that this is the last “dress rehearsal” Golf Camp (lower price) before the season cranks into high gear with Memorial Day weekend, and that loads of Jews would be taking advantage of the cut rates.  Then he wanted to know why I hoped not.  This is a little bit complicated.  See, our area is on the Migratory Path for New York City folk who want to rusticate in the country.  They pour out in the first wave when they have kids, because the City really isn’t a great place for having kids due to a general lack of backyards and other convenient greenspace for playing, and due to the general presence of very high prices and big crowds.  Then they pour out in the second wave when they retire.  There are several locations to which these waves pour out, but by far and above, the most popular destination for New York City Jews who are pouring out is Western Massachusetts (where I live) and Southern Vermont (where the Golf Camp is).  This is a seriously mixed blessing, because when the New Yorkers pour out of the City, they bring a lot of amenities with them.  On the other hand, every Jew in my area expects, automatically, that every other Jew in that area they meet came from the City too, and they invariably, inevitably, launch into a full-blown game of Jewish Geography.  This is like Twenty Questions with the end-goal of identifying the particular Three Degrees of Separation between any two of them.   That means approximately 15 minutesper pair of “Oh, you’re from the City? Where?” “Oh, I grew up in the Bronx too! Which part!” “Pelham Parkway?  My parents lived there for ten years.  What grade school did you go to?”  and “Upper West Side?  The 87 block, or the 112 block?” “Yes!  My brother’s wife’s uncle’s father was the rabbi at that synagogue!  He retired back in 1962.  Did you know him?”

Listening to a horde of people pair off and list off every street address in Manhattan, the Boroughs, or New Jersey that they ever occupied, while triangulating with JCCs, synagoges, public schools, and yeshivas is bad enough…if you, like me, are not only not from the City but do not have any blood relatives who live, or have ever lived in the City.  There’s only so much time I can spend discussing my mother-in-law’s apartment building in Queens.  What is worse that Roy gets infected with the spirit of Sholem Aleichem and inevitable begins to channel Tevye the Dairyman, as immortalized by Topol’s depiction in the film version of “Fiddler on the Roof”.  This must be seen to be believed.  So, no, I did not find the prospect of endless iterations of Jewish Geography – in which I cannot participate because no New York City Jew appears to know that there is a substantial Jewish population outside of the Northeast and Los Angeles, heaven forbid, in Texas – let alone know anyone from there.  And all this going on to the wildly expressive gesticulations of my spouse, and the introduction of Yiddish slang like “OY!” and “So, nu?” into every fifth sentence.  The worst part is when he starts to repeat everything I’ve said, only with a question mark at the end.

“The Pro said to pick up our clubs outside.”
“The Pro said to pick up our clubs outside?”
“Yes. Outside.”
“Our clubs? They’re outside?”
“Yes.”
“Outside the clubs are?”
“Why are you repeating everything I say as a question?”
“Me? I’m repeating everything you say as a question?”
“Yes.”
“A question? I’m repeating?”
“Yes.”
“Everything you say?  As a question?”
“I’m leaving now.”
“You’re leaving now?”
“Shut up.”
“I should shut up?”

etc.  You can see why I wasn’t jazzed when the spectre of an entire Golf Camp full of Jews – all of whom would be current or former New Yorkers – was raised.

Unfortunately.  Unfortunately.   Unfortunately, other than Roy, I was the youngest person at Golf Camp by twenty years, and that includes all of the Pros.  And the Roll Call?

Meyer Rozencrantz
Ethel Bernstein
Jacob Cohen
Herman and Myrtle Katz
Abraham and Stella Levy
Esther Dreyfuss
and so on. (None of these are the real names, but might just as well have been).  So.  Yes.  A Golf Camp not only full of New York City Jews, most of whom knew each other and so zeroed straight in on Roy to play Jewish Geography with him, but a Golf Camp full of Septuagenarian New York City Jews.  Which may, to some degree, account for my current state of exhaustion.

Back to the golfing, I appreciate the fundamentals as much and probably more so than the next guy, but I’m kind of hoping that tomorrow, we learn How To Use The Golf Course.  Because I’m sure that I’ll have nightmares tonight of teeing off at the 6th tee, and shooting straight for the 5th hole, or something equally awful.  And I wouldn’t know what to do if my ball went into the rough or the sand.  I would also, of course, like to learn How To Drive The Golf Cart.

I Am Not A Texas Horse.

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Well, all kind of interesting things have been happening here!  First, my saddle is a LOT better now!!  I got it right after I got a new rider a long time ago, and it was a good saddle, although it was weird.  There is more of it than there used to be when I was a jumping horse.  And the girth was tickly.  I used to try to bite it but I got used to it after a while.  The thing I did not ever get used to was the pinchy part under my withers.  I have very high withers.  I think this is a Sign of being the Wonder Horse, because everyone admires them!  They stand around and say Wow! Those are the highest withers I have ever seen! and I say Yes, that is because I am a special horse!!  They are so high that people talk about them all the time.  The only problem with my withers is that the saddles can get kind of pinchy sometimes.  My saddle was not pinchy on my withers, but it was pinchy near there.  I told my rider she should do something about that, but she only said I will, Huey, but we have to ride in this saddle and mash it down for a while first.

I guess we mashed it down enough, because not very long ago, my rider put me into the cross ties and cleaned me up, but she was not dressed for riding, so I thought it might just be for fun.  I knew it was not for another bath, because I had one of those already, when I told my rider that I could kick someone, and she made me not.  So there I was in the ties thinking that it would be a good idea to go outside and eat some grass, maybe, and what do you know, a person I never saw before was there, and he said Oh my word, would you look at those withers! And I said Yes! They are very high!! And then he put things on my back that made a tickle.  I turned my head to watch, but my rider said Huey, you must look straight ahead, because this is the person who is going to fix your saddle!! And I said My saddle is getting fixed?  I thought that would not ever happen!!

But it did.  There was that man, and there was my rider, and there was the saddle, and the did a bunch of things to it, and then I had to try it on.  But my rider did not ride me.  Laura did!  She hardly ever rides me, not in ages!!  And, between you and me, that is kind of a good thing because she is a MUCH better rider than my real rider is, and that means that what she says, I have to do, right away.  With my rider, she does not usually tell me what to do, she asks me to do something, and I like that because then I can say Are you sure? or I do not feel like doing that right now.   And sometimes she can make me do it, but mostly she cannot.

This is the best thing about having a rider that is not very good.  The other is that I am teaching this rider how to ride, and so she will ride me the way I want to be ridden.  And that is without much of that messing around with the bit and my mouth, and almost no kicking.  I do not like to be kicked.

But I know better than to say to Laura Are you sure, because I know that she is.  And when I said I do not feel like doing that right now, she made me do it anyway.  So that is not as much fun.  It is more work.

But, here is the very good thing.  That person fixed the saddle really good!!!!  It is much nicer now!!  For one, I was always very good about listening to the things my rider says with her seat, and now, it is much easier to hear that!  For two, my rider said Huey! I can hear your back!! I could not do that before!  And this is all good, because it means that I do not have to ask What are you saying to me, rider? because it is a lot more clear now, and I know.  That is good.  I like to know.  For another, it is just a lot more comfortable, which is good, because we are starting to do some work now.  Up until now it has just been a lot of poky things.  But now, we are trotting for ages and we are even doing some cantering.

My rider is still not very good at cantering.  She bounces a lot.  That is not fun for me.  But she bounces a little less, and today, we went for a while and she hardly bounced at all.  I was doing my best Teaching Canter for her, and she was doing a very good Learning Canter for me, and usually we can only go a little way because I think she is going to get unbalanced and if I think that, the right thing is to STOP.  She told me that, and I am a Good and Smart Horse, and I listened.  So usually we have to stop very soon.  This rider would not have been able even to go from one jump to another, not even over any jumps, she is that much of a baby.  But today, we went all the way around the ring.  That is a first for us!!  Well, it is not really a first because there was that other time, and that was not so good, but this was the first time we meant to go all the way around the ring, and she did not fall off!  And she did not get shaky to make me stop, and then she said WOOOOO!!!  And I said What are you saying up there Rider? and she said We are having FUN Huey!!! so I knew it was OK to keep going.  Then I got a huge pat, but I did not get any treats and I did not get any grass.  I did get a big pile of hay in my paddock, and my rider gave my face a very good rub, so I was happy.

After my saddle got fixed, my rider went away.  I did not like that much.  She said Huey, I have to go away for a while.  There is a good rider that will come help you get exercise, though.  But I said Why are you going away? And she said it was a Vacation.  I said What is that? But she did not tell me.  She just went off.  The good piece there is that I did have another rider for a little while, and that other ride is a lot better than my rider.  And I have a Hay Net now!  I do not know if I like that Hay Net.  It is good and bad.  The bad part is that I can only eat a few tiny pieces of hay at a time, and I have to work to pull them out of that net.  The good part is that now I have hay for a lot longer than I used to!  Also, I do not get a lot of shavings into the hay.  That is good.  So I had a Hay Net, and I have a new Sticky Ball.  I was very happy to see that because the Sticky Ball is tasty, and sweet, and it it is fun.  I got very excited, and got a bunch of the Sticky Ball on my ear, which was not so good.  I do not like it when the Sticky Ball gets on my face or in my ear or in my nose and then dries up.  It is prickly, and it means I have to have my face washed.  Today I had to have my face washed, and my ear washed.  I put my head way up into the air so my rider would know that I do not like getting my ear washed.  But she just said Huey, put your head down!  I have to get the Sticky Ball out of your ear so it will stop itching!  She was right, I did not like the itching part, so I put my head down.

It was not as bad as I thought it would be, getting my ear washed.

Then just the other day I did not see my rider all day because it was raining.  Sometimes she comes even if it is raining, and we do stuff together, like have the farrier come, or get a massage.  But that day, she came late in the afternoon.  I said Rider! Where have you been! and she said It was raining and I had to do a bunch of other things, but I am here now!  She was not dressed for riding, either.  And there were a bunch of other horses all going riding in the ring, and we do not go in there when it is a bunch of other horses. I said It is time for me to go into the barn, Rider!! but she just said Not yet, Huey.  She said she had a treat for me, and she made it come out of her pocket.  It was a big wet thing the size and color of an apple, but it did not smell like an apple.  She held it out.  I said What is that thing? And she said It is from a watermelon.  I said What is a watermelon? And she said It is a big sweet thing like a huge apple.  The texas horses eat them like they are apples!  The texas horses think they are very good!

So I took a bite, and it was not an apple.  It was not a carrot either.  It was only a little sweet, and it did not taste like anything I knew.  I dropped it from my mouth onto the ground.

I am not a texas horse, I said. I am a jumping horse.

It was very disappointing, that watermelon.  I thought I was getting a treat, but it was only kind of wet and crunchy.  At least then my rider took me into the barn, and I got to play with my Hay Net!

I am not sure what a texas horse is, but I think they are weird for that watermelon thing. They should try some real treats like an apple or a carrot. THAT is what I like!