Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fat Guy in My Future

Well after spending a whole night making a new blog for Maggie, the successful PMU horse, I decided to sell her.

It's a shocker, we'll see how it goes, how does one fill a 1600 pound hole in one's life? I'm thinking jellybeans.

She's been a great horse, it's been a great learning experience, a year of really hard work and some nice rewards. But she's too strong for the kids, she's always going to be too strong for them. And I'm tired. I just want to get on and ride a regular horse. Kid-safe, boring and easy.

I'm hoping some big burly guy will like Maggie, the kind of guy who's too fat to get on a regular horse. She'd be good for him.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

See, Everything's Okay

3rd day trail riding with a buddy. All it seems to be is getting over fear. Doing it when your feet are dragging. The Dread Factor. We've been out twice with Beth, who's a psychologist, and thank God for that because now I'll be getting free therapy for fear issues. Beth brings a whole first aid kit with her and wears a whistle around her neck. I'm going to be taking her with me everywhere. Luckily, she put up with me saying, "Um, I can only go for a short ride, and I have to be able to turn around if it's too nervewracking. Also, let's not stop to look around because if Maggie's feet stop, there's a better chance she'll look around for things to freak out about. And I promise I won't always be so psycho." To all that, Beth said, "Sure." So I dragged out to take Mags out this morning, going on a new trail by the Hansen Dam golf course, and I tried to stop thinking, just tacked her up and did everything like I would any other day. I just got myself out there. Beth was already out halfway to our house by the time Maggie and I got out, and we walked the entire way together. Up, into the dam, into a tunnel, over a hill, alongside golf course and next to joggers. Maggie, on her second day with this new horse buddy, just walked along happily. Once she realized that all she had to do was walk along and occasionally smell piles of horse poop, and nothing popped out at us, she just plodded along. Every step we took was a step deeper into confidence. So we made it back, without any drama, in an hour and a half, which turns out to be a half hour longer than my hips can handle on her width. Back at home, I stopped her to get off and I couldn't figure out how to get my leg out of cowboy position. I was like a wishbone, implanted onto her back. But now the anxiety is less, I have a new trail friend, and Mags has the chance to become a well-rounded horse, by seeing new things and having new scenary. I like the rides where nothing happens. I like the rides that give you a glimmer of See, Everything's Okay.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Carving a Path

The Mags and I went on an awfully big adventure, as they say in Peter Pan, today. When I first got Mags last year at this time, this neighbor pulled over when she saw us walking by on the road by the school, and yelled out the window "Is that a PMU??" She had rescued one a few years ago. Her name was Raquel and she had dyed black hair and every other word was a cuss word and I thought she's either a hairdresser or from New York, and it turns out she's a hairdresser. I liked her right away, because she was so foul-mouthed and funny. Anyway, now it's a year later, and I kept in touch with her and finally, with the kids in school, I had a free morning and a year's worth of work and riding with Maggie, I was ready to take her on the trail out in Hansen Dam with Raquel. Maybe this is the same with anything in life, but riding Mags up the road we always ride on is easy. Veering off the road into a new area, there could be coyotes. Scary cars. Loose dogs. What if Raquel is insane? What if I end up in a ditch? My hair all hacked off in some brutal, yet stylish way? I get to the feed store, which is already a block further than Maggie and I ever go, so I'm already on alert. I see someone riding toward me but it looks like a man, so I think, oh great, this is going to be the day I find out that Raquel is someone who never shows up. But as the rider gets closer, I realize it's her, not a man, and in fact she doesn't look like a man at all, and I should probably wear my glasses. And she doesn't seem as ballsy as she did in the car that day a year ago, she seems smart, level-headed, safe, funny and honest. She's 53, so I think of someone with that high a number as like my mom or something, even though she's only 7 years older than I am. We talk about the basics first, which is #1 riding accidents - she broke her back a few years ago, and I got bucked off and broke my hand. So we are more cautious riders now, this is good. Maggie likes her dark horse I'll call Ray Charles, who looks like an anorexic ice skater next to my sumo wrestler. They sniff noses, and Maggie nibbles his lip while looking away like, "Okay. You're cool." We cross down McBroom Street, and then under the tunnel, which we've only done once, with Nigel, months ago. Out into open territory, Maggie's head is up, she's a bold horse, she would pick a fight on the schoolyard, or run away if the person looked too scary, those are her two defense modes. When you go through the tunnel, you cross the entrance to the top of Hansen Dam where all these people are biking and jogging. As we crossed down the trail near the dam, Maggie did not enjoy the joggers up on the Dam ridge above us and next to us, they were like movement, far up, that she interpreted as Possible Danger. Keep Note of It. If we were alone, Maggie would have stopped and run away, or given me all sorts of balking trouble. But because she had the mellow Ray Charles horse next to us, she didn't run. Her horse brain decided, well, if he's okay, I'm not happy with all that movement, but this skinny dude here seems to think it's okay, so I'll just stay next to him, but I'm unna keep my left eye on that movement, if you don't mind. We get around a bend and then we aren't anywhere we've ridden before. This is scary. As Sally Ride, the chick astronaut, says, "All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary." We are on sand, and there is desert wildlife everywhere - scrubby plants, and wide open sky, and a small mountain to our right. Then we're going down a path and it's starting to feel cooler, and then we're in trees. Then it's like being back in Maryland a little bit, because there is only the trees, and the path, and the horse in front of us. And then a stream is right there, flowing and wet and beautiful, or it would be beautiful if I could relax, but Maggie's never seen a stream with a rider on her, what is she going to do, and why does it have to be ME on her, but the other horse stops for a drink, and Maggie stops for a drink, and then we cross the water, and she loves the water, it isn't scary, it feels good, so we keep walking, and up ahead is a deeper stream, slower moving, and we head through that one, and I have to keep kicking Maggie because she has no river manners, she might just stop and then probably decided to lay down and roll in it, and I can't handle that! So all this time Raquel and I are talking, and it's easy to talk when the horse is calm, but when Maggie starts seeing something, and her head raises up, my blood pressure raises up. The trail goes up and gets a little rocky, and then we're out on the other side of the wash, and it's wide open and there are other riders here. Maggie is very alert here, in a wide-eyed, I don't want to be riding her, kind of way. And there's this loud strangled kitten sound coming out of the bushes that's freaking her out, and I'm thinking, let's keep going and get past this and then somehow Raquel is saying, "wait, there's a cat in there," and then she's off her horse and looking in the bushes. This is when I start panicking, shit, just leave the freaking cat already, I am just trying to survive this ride - coyotes will take really good care of that kitty, but instead, I'm circling Maggie, and she's lifting her head so high if she was helicopter she would be flying by now, and she's seeing all sorts of "scary" objects, dogs barking in cars, dogs running around, cars in the distance, riders coming at us. And this lady is just digging in the bushes and she finally, after YEARS comes out with a black young kitty. "I'm sorry, I'm a mom -- I had to get it -" and she stuffs the cat in her shirt and figures out how to get back on her horse with a meowing cat in her bra, and I'm thinking, this woman is SO FAR beyond me - lucky to be able to ride relaxed on her 16 year old horse who looks like he should be wearing spectacles and playing a rousing game of Scrabble by a fire, while I'm on Disaster Horse, Anything Can Happen Horse. I wished so BAD, I was her. I'm just trying to hang on, I thought. You're putting a cat in your bra. We continue our walk, and Maggie settles down a little, but this is already an hour ride, and that's usually my limit. So I ask her gently if we could find the path back, and we head back the same way. Maggie is thankfully, very good, even when there's a loose dog on the path by the water, who disappears back into the woods (and I expect to come bounding out at any moment) - I just want to get back now, so I can have had a successful, no accident ride. When we get through the tunnel, and we're back on the street, and I can't feel my hips anymore, I realize we're going to be allright. There were no big problems. Maggie bolted only once, when we were first rounding the bend in the sand, before the water. She burst ahead because something scared her, and I turned her and she stopped. Raquel said I didn't move out of the saddle, which made me feel good. I'm probably more secure than I know. Now that's comedy. We decide to do it again next Friday, and then I have the long walk back to my house on Mags while my hips hurt. I should maybe get a saddle that is slightly higher up, or pad mine differently so I'm not stretched like a rubber band with my ankles in my ears over her wide river back. Raquel was telling me there was this really good $600 dollar saddle she knew about and I just laughed. I said $50 was more my speed. But I learned alot from her, I can see how I can make some improvements on my ride - where to carry a water bottle, what's the best fit for the most comfortable ride for Maggie and I. Mostly, when it was over, I got to see that I could do it, that any kind of training is hard work, couragous work, and carving new paths is just what it is, carving a new path. So we can glide later. I need chewing tobacco, chaps and leather skin, I think, to at least outwardly look as tough as you have to be to try these things. Luckily Maggie doesn't know I'm a trembling flower. She just knows I'm kind of fun, we take weird walks, and I have the carrots. I'll take a picture next Friday, when I can unfreeze my terror-filled hands from the reins to get the camera. But next week I will be an inch closer to being the lady with the cat in her bra. That is something I'm looking forward to. I like having that image - with a little more work, you too, can do something like this. In fact, by the time you get to the cat in bra point, it won't even seem like a problem.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Since the kids are in school, I'm back to being able to ride Mag almost each day. Today on the trail some sprinklers went off right when we were passing them on a skinny path, and she startled and tried to turn around, but I had her and circled her and talked to her and let her walk by the dreaded sprinklers until she realized they weren't going to spray acid onto her or attack her. (She has flashbacks from when she was a spy, Agent 91.) (I guess.) Then we were almost home later, on the secret leafy path right by the house, and nothing ever happens there, so I had taken my feet out of the stirrups cause they hurt sometimes from all the fear pressing down into the stirrups (that's where I channel it all, apparently) - so of course I had no stirrups, so no extra balancing aid, and a squirrel decided to wrestle itself THROUGH a plastic covering on the fence RIGHT next to us as we passed by, and I have to admit, if I was Maggie, I would've flipped out too. (Luckily, I saw the squirrel before Maggie did and sort of expected it to happen.) So Maggie, who was ambling along after having stopped to pee in her regular place in the shade a few feet back, sees wiggling squirrel plastic next to her and says "I'm gettin out a here, Boss -" and turns to flee. I have gotten it down pretty well, I lean the other direction, put both hands on the one rein she's fleeing from, and aim her back so she basically can only take two steps, and can't run anywhere. And she's gotten pretty good, she stops, and the adrenaline is fading because she's just big and retarded, and she turns back around like "oops, okay, right, carry on," and then she keeps going forward with no trouble. It's like she has to learn HOW to react in a safe way while still acknowledging her fear and letting it run its course, without hurting anybody since she weighs as much as a car with Arnold Schwartzeneggar driving it. Of course, I get to enjoy the nasty fear aftermath as I assess if I'm still alive and functioning. Luckily, I got to see that I could ride just as well with no stirrups - my body didn't move a bit in the saddle, I was glued in and balanced all on my own. Why do we always doubt our ability to hang on, and hang on well? I was meant to be in that saddle. Maggie isn't trying to hurt me. She's just young, and learning. Anyway, I'm going to try and make these blogs into a separate Maggie Channel, so other people with PMUs can feel encouraged. That training a 10 year old mare with no previous experience under saddle isn't impossible. Little bits every day. Nobody handled her face much before me, so I'm just now getting to that aspect - having her turn and let me stroke her face, wipe it -- she still wants to turn away. But when I ask her to turn toward me with gentle pulling, she lets me have her face, and if I'm grooming her, eventually she'll drop her whole head and relax like, "Finally. Somebody."

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Summer Lovin

Too hot to write. My arms are sticking to the desk. There is a fan on in here, but it seems to be blowing air directly up from hell. Inside I am an ice cream cone, but outside of me, I am actually melting. Summer is waving at me from the window, it is the end of summer even though August just started, because the school year has changed its schedule. So I am still standing in the yard, looking at summer waving, and refusing to wave my handkerchief in surrender. It's just not fair how things end. How some things just bulldoze past just when you realized you were having a good time. Raising kids is just like that. Yell, yell, fun, leap, heartbreak, yell, yell, clean up, fireworks, ice cream, everyone asleep. Rinse, and repeat. I've had so many great, dawdling summers, and I'm so grateful to have this very one, with all our kids nestled in for the night, and Barry passing his driving test renewal, and big Mags rubbing her big butt on the tree outside in the dark. Lilly summed it up tonight going to bed, talking about family: "Daddy's the biggest. Then you, then Bruce, then Nathan, then Emma, then me, but wait, no, what about Brandon and Ziani? And then Noah and Rowan? And Luke? It will take, like, quick. Like there's too many people. Like the sun will come up."