Ski Day Two: Aprilary

Our second ski day was more like the depths of winter than the end of April…unless you’re on Mt. Hood. The weather system that Cliff Mass calls “Darth Vapor” is dumping snow on the Mountain, fine, wet powdery stuff…and I got a reminder that Timberline Road in some ways is a tougher drive than crossing the Blue Mountains via Tollgate.

The official snow count this morning was 199 inches at the lodge. I’m willing to bet it had gone over 200 by the time we got our skis on and got out there. It continued to snow, a wet powder that formed rime ice on our ski pants and parkas along with a mild wind. We went back up to Stormin Norman simply because given our level of conditioning, it’s the easiest run to do with blowing and drifting snow. My knees were fussing at me first thing this morning so I didn’t want to push it.

Not sleeping well last night didn’t help, either. I started with fatigue and it didn’t help things. My first run down, I bobbled a couple of times but didn’t tweak anything and stayed upright. The second run was better, and the third run was when I started to feel the flow coming. But then the fourth run was just not quite right, so I didn’t find the flow. The wind was also such that above the trees it was occasionally hard to see where the snow ended and the air began. When we headed back to the lodge, I encountered a few surprise drops, and had to stop in one place to figure out where to go.

On the other hand, my feet didn’t cramp up in the boots today. That’s a big plus. I’m getting them back into shape.

There was a big living quarters horse trailer in the parking lot. Obviously there weren’t any horses in it–I had to wonder if it was hauling equipment while the owners were staying overnight in the living quarters, or maybe that was the only trailer they had.

We saw some very happy snow doggies in the parking lot, romping in the snow. On Tuesday we saw one dog who was ecstatically rolling in the snow–nothing like that today, but nonetheless there were happy snow doggies around.

No spectral whooshes from the ravens today, though they were scouting the parking lot for any food scraps.

By the time we left, a little six-inch drift was forming by the rear driver’s side wheel. Driving down Timberline Road had some interesting moments with slush and ice.

But we’ve survived another ski day, and I’m beginning to trust my legs and feet again. One thing I am noticing is that my hips are stronger than they were before. It’s easier for me to stand up and get out of the chair. I can thank those long rides on Mocha for that, I think.

Now I just have to be in better shape….

Leave a Comment

Filed under ski bum life

The slow process of craft

I think I complained in an earlier post that I’ve been slow with writing a new book because of life plus working on short stories. One of the things that I am discovering at this point in time is that I just can’t be as much of a plotter with my short stories as I can be with my novels. That slowed me down considerably in drafting the short pieces, because I found myself worrying at the characters, at the plot, at every blessed thing without getting the words down on paper–and then freezing up because I couldn’t just sit down and write it out like I can in a novel.

I’m not sure why it is that way. I tried to outline the short stories. It just didn’t work. Oh, a rough outline was fine, but I found myself adding in complexity that really wasn’t helpful. Unlike writing a novel, too, I couldn’t depend on a rough framework to help me roll 2ooo words a day through the computer. I was lucky to get 1000 words in, if that.

I finally concluded that short stories are just different, and I need to be less controlling of the story in some ways. But I also needed to sit and think a lot more while crafting the short stories. As it were, I have four short stories–well, three shorts and a novelette that I wrote in the first four months of the year. I guess that counts for something. Just not enough in self-publishing world.

The other thing is that I am now in the process of laying out the foundation for the sequel to Pledges of Honor, Challenges to Honor. Right now that consists of opening up Scrivener and making notes to myself about the interrelationships between the main characters as well as their interactions with minor characters. I’ve also started making general plot notes as well as notes about individual book arcs. I’m starting to get a grasp of what the plot is going to be, and I have a rough initial blurb written.

But!

I have NO. FREAKING. IDEA. about point of view yet. From all the backstory I’m building, this needs to be a multiple-viewpoint book. And yet–I somewhat want it to reflect Pledges with Katerin as the viewpoint character. And yet–there are things happening out of her POV which could be important. I might add one more POV, but…I’m not yet convinced it needs to happen. Katerin’s arc is going to be serious enough. She’s had a quiet eleven years since the events of Pledges. But the Gods are stirring, the Emperor-over-Sea is remembering the distant exiles who could yet challenge his legitimacy, and her role as Banisher of Shadows is going to come into play. The Red Goddess has the reddest of blood-red motives, and she does not look very kindly on the daughter of the woman who banished her from the Witch City of Waykemin.

Or the Miteal family, which means two strikes against Katerin and her daughter Witmara.

So yeah. Once I start writing on this one, it’s gonna be a ride.

But first I have to figure out if it’s just Katerin’s POV or not.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Goddess's Honor series

Back on the planks again

Skis, that is. It’s been two years since we went skiing. The first year, we had our Fusion passes ready to go, but no snow. Last year, because of my fall with Mocha in the summer, I couldn’t get my injured foot in my ski boot and I lacked confidence in the strength of my ankle. I missed skiing not just at Timberline but at Ferguson Ridge, the little ski area in Wallowa County.

This winter was and still is epic snow. Nearly 200 inches at Timberline right now. But I still couldn’t get my feet into those damn boots. So I finally broke down and went to the chiropractor for two sessions of footwork that my massage therapist recommended. After the second session, I shared with the chiropractor that I still couldn’t get my feet into the boots.

He frowned, and had me sit down so he could examine my feet further. “It shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “Your feet are flexing properly. Go talk to a boot fitter.”

So I called down to Portland to a boot fitter, and the boot fitter recommended exposing the boots to heat. Given that it was still winter, and the wood stove was burning, I parked the boots by the wood stove. A few hours later–et voila! I could jam my feet into the boots. I followed a further recommendation and yanked the tongues out as far as I could to see if that would also loosen things up.

Next, it became a question of when in a busy Portland schedule we could fit skiing in. By this point it was mid-March and the Timberline spring passes were on sale. But I knew from bitter experience that Spring Break at Timberline is total chaos, so…we didn’t go.

The stars finally aligned. I had started questioning if I wanted to ski again, but figured well, give it a try. I have a lot of things I’m wanting to do these days and not many of them are in Portland. Still, it seemed to be a good idea to give it a try, especially how epic this winter has been. Plus with the latest cold and wet spell, there’d been a fresh dump of snow in the Cascades.

We didn’t race up the hill like we had when cramming skiing in during time off on weekends, or like I did when skiing before work. All the same I had a brief sinking sensation in my stomach as I came down Cherryville, and had to remind myself that I wasn’t going to work, I was just going skiing and having fun.

The lot was almost full, which surprised us. It was as slick and icy as ever. Fortunately, several months of life in the snow and ice meant we were a bit more skilled at navigating the parking lot ice rink. Despite the full lot, we were able to get our passes quickly, then go back to boot up and unbag the skis. As I wrenched my snug boots on, I heard the whoosh from the wings of a parking lot raven flying low. I decided that was a good omen because I’ve always enjoyed watching the ravens play at Timberline. It was easier to walk back to the lodge in ski boots instead of my other shoes. I had some trepidation as I stepped into my bindings–woman, are you crazy?!!–but told my inner chicken to shut up and pushed off. It couldn’t be any worse than taking Mocha back out on the roads this spring after a layoff.

Lordy, I’d forgotten just how tight those Dalbello Electra boots are. And I gave myself a serious case of thigh burn overcontrolling every turn down the first slope to West Leg Road, and the relief of an easy glide to Stormin’ Norman. The second slope down to Norman was shorter and easier, and I found the whisper of a flow to my movement.

We hopped on the chair and rode to the top of Norman. It had changed since the last time we skied there, with a lot of big, big jumps. But the snow was powdery even though there were snowboard divots we had to work through to get to the really good part of the run.

I had to stop twice on the first run because my feet were still screaming about those tight boots. But I told myself to ignore it because tight is better than loose. I had a bad fall from packed out liners in soft boots so I’m paranoid about that now. My thighs were also unhappy because–again–I was overcontrolling and not skiing relaxed.

Everything clicked on that second run. The boots loosened up and I found myself able to use my feet more effectively. My arms and shoulders rotated from turn to turn as they should. After that first run, my thighs stopped aching so bad and I was able to pick up a little speed.

We decided after four runs that this was good for a first day. We both had more in us, but I knew that if something funky happened I was just tired enough to cause me problems. And after all, it was on par for what we’ve done in the past for our first days skiing. So we glided back to the lodge, and I had a wonderful glide down the bottom of the Magic Mile to the lodge.

And oh yeah, we did a selfie in front of the lodge. Because we could, and because this really was the first ski of retirement. Two years late, but we finally made it.

Leave a Comment

Filed under ski bum life

Coming up on two years

Two years ago we were on the final stages of beginning our new retirement life split between two houses, and contemplating the Big Scary Move hauling the horse on the longest trailer ride she’d had in her life. While we still had things to do with both houses to reflect our changed lifestyle, including moving the son around in the Portland house, and setting things up there, we were taking the big leap and going back part-time to the place we had fallen in love with thirty-four years ago–the place where we started our post-college life, the place where we committed to each other and began our walk together through life. We knew that the transition would take time. In small places like Enterprise, you can’t force your way into the local scene. While we still had friends here, we knew that it would take time to settle in and get to know people and make connections.

What we didn’t know was if we would miss the urban life, or what shape our lives in Enterprise would take. I knew that I needed to do some sort of work, but what, I wasn’t sure. I had hopes of substituting in the local schools, but soon found that there was a lot of competition. I’d considered trying to tutor and offer classes, but early overtures didn’t quite mesh. So I settled back, focused on my writing, and adopted a “let it flow” mentality.

So far there’s been no regrets. I’ve been working online for my old school district for a year and a half now, an endeavor that started when I was called back to do special education assessment to fill in a big hole that circumstances popped up in February of 2016. Sub jobs are starting to drift my way. I may have some other things coming but haven’t signed any paperwork as yet…so….possibilities abound.

And there are more things. Today was the first day this spring where I took the laptop onto the front porch to write, finishing off the Exile’s Honor novelette that I hope to release by late May. I wrote and watched birds at the feeders we’ve finally gotten set up, and kept an eye on a storm moving across the mountains. Yesterday I took Mocha on one of the long road rides we are starting to do again this spring. We saw bald eagles, redtailed hawks, magpies, red-winged blackbirds, a blue heron, California quail, a ringnecked China pheasant rooster, and lots of deer. We went down a road new to us so she was on her toes, full of energy and lining out in a big, bold, forward walk with her head and neck level, ears pricked forward on a loose rein.

Is it the life I’d visualized and anticipated during all those years in Portland dreaming about returning? Yes…and no. It was a different place between then and now. In many ways it is much sweeter–our little house on the hill has a gorgeous view and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed studying the mountains in all their moods. There are more artists and writers here than there were before. We’re not involved in one of the small town businesses as employees. If we want to hole up and be antisocial for a few days, we can. Or if we want to get out and do things (mostly me), there are things to do. I’m starting to take up quilting, and have discovered that I can be somewhat decent at it. I’ve joined the Soroptimists, and am getting caught up in their activities locally to improve things for women and girls. I’m getting to be known as one of the local writers, and have had a couple of occasions where someone has asked me how my writing is going when out and about in the local shops. The past two Christmases I’ve participated in local craft shows, and hope to do more of it.

My asthma is happier here. I’ve adapted and enjoy the slower pace of life, which includes the possibility of running into people we know at the grocery store and stopping for a chat.

Not all is sunny and perfect, though. The son has had health problems. We fret about making it down to Clatskanie to cultivate the garden with our friend, especially in a damp and cold spring like we are having here. Sometimes the six hours between here and Portland seem like forever.

But then the sun comes out between the clouds, and we get a different glow.

We go down to Portland and get our taste of urban life, and then retreat. Right now we seem to have a decent balance, and I hope that continues. There are times when I think I should be more driven, more ambitious, and fill my days with more activity…and then I look at what I’ve actually been doing, and decide that perhaps I’m all right after all.

Summer will soon be here, with the frenetic activity that comes with it being the main money-making/food cultivation/food harvest/woodcutting season.

I think it’ll be all right.

Comments Off on Coming up on two years

Filed under blather

Rant: Why aren’t there more good horse novels for adults?

This particular rant got set off by my reading of Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon. It’s won some literary prizes, is highly acclaimed and…it pissed me off so much when I read it that I’ve spent some time this afternoon composing this particular little rant in my head.

The problem with Lord of Misrule for anyone who has grown up reading any standard juvenile and later on adult horse fiction is that it hits damn near every. single. solitary. cliche in the hardbitten adult horse novel subcategory. Broken-down racehorses at a bush league track, so of course you have corrupt trainers and grooms, fun and games with claiming races, doping, Magical Negro grooms, at least one gruesome horse death, a girl determined to save a broken-down horse, and, and….yeah. Except, of course, it’s all done in a particularly artsy literary style where there are no marks to delineate dialogue (no dashes, no colons, no quotation marks), no character whether human or horse is redeemable, and it attempts to replicate the writer’s perception of racetracker dialogue. And, dear God, the particularly gloomy portrayal it has of horses and humans involved with horses would send a sane person screaming away from any sort of involvement with the equestrian world. There’s damn little joy in the relationship between human and horse, much less love between human and horse or the ongoing nonverbal communication that exists in a good horse/human relationship.

Not that this book is a singular offender. With few exceptions, primarily in genre, when horses show up in adult novels, they’re either poorly written, part of a Spiritual Experience, are unrealistic adult versions of juvenile horse novels or are gritty hardbitten looks at the dark side of commercial equestrian industry. The horses don’t get to show up as horses, complete with equine humor and varying temperaments. Good grief, dogs and cats get better representation than horses in adult fiction. You’ve got to pick up Rita Mae Brown, Natalie Keller Reinert, or perhaps even Jane Smiley to get a more balanced look at the horse world in non-genre fiction, and Brown is more crime fiction, ergo, genre, than mainstream when it comes to her horse lit. And don’t get me started on The Horse Whisperer. That was another book I wanted to throw across the room (but was saved by it being a library book). Yes, you can find good horse fiction in genre–fantasy and romance in particular (though I’m not much of a romance reader).

So why aren’t there more good horse novels for adults? I’ve tried. I picked up one Western-themed romantic suspense novel that was part of a series and ended up wanting to chuck the book across the room because of the inaccuracies in it. Currently my top favorite adult horse book is actually two books, Rider at the Gate and Cloud’s Rider, a short science fiction series by C. J. Cherryh. The nighthorses in these books are carnivorous (and have a love for bacon that any horseperson who’s seen an equine reaction to peppermints will recognize). They’re a telepathic protection for humans in a world where telepathic wildlife would drive humans insane–and the nighthorses associated with humans due to their own curiosity about human minds. The nighthorses are fascinated by human minds–and Cherryh’s nighthorses are a heckva lot closer to horses I’ve known than many non-genre horses I’ve read. Judith Tarr also writes some dang good horses, especially in A Wind in Cairo.

Is it because there are only so many plots that can be told about horses and humans? Somehow, I don’t think so.

What I find myself missing are the stories where the horses are there as companions for their people. Not Companions as in supernatural beings in horse form, but horses as the opinionated, quirky, humorous beings they are. Horses that are well-treated, that have jobs they enjoy doing (yes, there are horses who like to work and be ridden), and empower their humans to succeed in everyday, regular ways. Stories that show the ordinary part of horse world where you spend more of your time mucking, grooming, and schooling than in cutthroat competition. Where the drama of human life that drives fiction is not dependent upon something awful happening to the horse.

I mean…today on Facebook I watched a video clip of a horse kicking butt on an alligator in Florida. Horse saw gator lurking near its herd in a park, and…aggressive horse stomping ensued, with gator slinking away. How likely are you to see this scene happen in a story about horses? Or a story with horses in it?

So, you may ask, why aren’t you writing these stories, Joyce?

Answer: I am, just mostly in genre. And I break my own rules because I’ve done horrible things to my horses in fiction–but the horses are performing heroically before the Awful Thing happens, rather than being forced to perform and getting hurt because of human frailties. They are in partnership with their humans. They’re joined with their humans in battle. Missy in Alien Savvy is not taking any guff off of those aliens, by golly, because she can herd them like she can cows. Mira in Pledges of Honor is fighting right alongside her bonded human Katerin. Narasin in Beyond Honor provides emotional and magical support for her human. Sox in my as yet unpublished ghost story “Lost Loves” confirms for Joni B that what she is seeing is real. Drinker of Wind and Sleipnir in “Tricksters, Horses, and Beer” have an agenda of their own, and who’s to say is manipulating whom…the horses or their Trickster owners?

I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m sick to death of depressing and poorly researched adult horse books, and there ain’t enough of the other stuff around unless I dip into my stash of horse juveniles. Or racing stories from the 1930s. Somehow along the way, the horse stopped becoming what it is–a quirky, opinionated being with an interesting sense of humor–and became an item to exploit in literature. Instead of being a generous companion, it became a shadowy icon representing the baser nature of humanity.

Somehow I think our literature is poorer for this lack.

Comments Off on Rant: Why aren’t there more good horse novels for adults?

Filed under blather

The two covers of Netwalking Space are now one

It wasn’t my intention to have two covers for Netwalking Space. But what happened was that I’d contacted my original cover artist, who had done the work on Netwalk: Expanded Edition and Netwalker Uprising to see if he could do this last cover. Which he did–the cover on the right side, with the title on the bottom.

It’s a gorgeous cover, and there’s nothing wrong with it–but. But! When I went to repackage it for the CreateSpace cover, nothing I did worked. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t get it to fit to CreateSpace specs. And he is busy at a day job, so…I turned to the designer of my fantasy series covers to have her do the paperback version. I decided to leave the ebook cover as is, and see if it sold.

Nothing.

So nothing was lost by switching the cover for the ebooks to match the paperback.

I think I’m going to eventually switch covers on the others, starting with the failed lousy cover I did for Netwalk’s Children. I do need to get to work on compiling the collection of the Bess and Alex novelettes (Tranquility Freeriders, Too High to Fall, and Of Archangels and Fuzzy Green Mascots). But this step is done.

We’ll see if it sells better now.

Comments Off on The two covers of Netwalking Space are now one

Filed under Netwalking Space

Transitions, new promo banner, and trails on foot and horseback

The big transition news isn’t really news to people on Facebook and all. Like many others, I’m leaving LiveJournal for Dreamwidth. The new terms of service from the Russians are just over the top, especially for a writer person like me. I’d previously stayed on LJ in support of the Russian dissidents who use it as a platform, but this last bit….no, I couldn’t do it.  So I’ve been busily adding new people to my circle on DW, and hope that this means perhaps we’ll be seeing some more action there. I’m sad to leave LJ, but knew this was coming. I’d started crossposting from my main blog to DW, and had DW crosspost to LJ. This week I severed the DW/LJ link, then imported all my content to DW. In a few weeks I plan to delete my LJ account entirely, or perhaps just delete all my entries.

The banner news is more fun. This winter, I joined the Wallowa Mountain Quilters Guild and started learning about making quilts. Up until a few days ago, though, my endeavors were limited to making the block of the month, with a vague sense that maybe I wanted to make a book advertising banner that I could have at readings, signings, craft shows, and what-have-you. But it wasn’t until I worked on the April blocks that I realized I had the perfect block pattern to make a quilted banner…and if I followed the basic concept of a table runner, I’d have a banner. I also had leftover space fabric from the curtains I made for the Enterprise bedroom as well as black and silver moon and stars fabric left over from pieces I’d gathered from an old job to help provide craft materials when I was a 4-H leader.

So here it is:

I used it today for a lightly-attended Grange author breakfast. Now I’m thinking about sf-related art quilt ideas….of the wall hanging size, using beads, and perhaps something to take to convention art shows. Have to think about it.

Hubby and I are starting to get out more and hike. Our first year here was full of moving and getting settled in. Last year, the sub testing job in Portland required that I spend at least a week testing students every month, along with working on my current online teaching job. Plus we were busily digging a lot of razor clams–a good thing as the domoic acid levels this winter and spring have kept us off the beach. It is looking now like the season may not open at all this spring/early summer. So this spring we are trying to get out and do more hiking. We’ve done three major hikes–one in Devil’s Gulch near Big Sheep Creek, another at the Chico Trailhead near Sled Springs, and the third with the horse on the Aneroid Lake trail.

All three hikes were fun, but the Aneroid Lake hike with Mocha left me smiling. I had been worried that she might be silly or weird, but instead, she marched right up the trail, was not worried about being with only her human herd, and showed lots of potential for being able to handle a longer hike on a non-icy trail (we ran into patches of packed snow and ice which made us turn back sooner than we might have otherwise). She picked up pretty quickly on the pacing of the husband staying on foot and was willing to stop and wait without fussing. I was worried that the steepness of the trail and some of the things she did to stay upright on the ice (kicking her toes into the ice to gain a foothold) might have made her sore, but no.

Of course, a few days later she was a total idiot on the roads, calling and calling and feeling like a coiled spring under me. But the weather was unsettled, with squalls blowing off of the Wallowas, and a couple of miles of long-trotting on a soft gravel/dirt road took some of the edge off. While we had wind here, it wasn’t as bad as it was further west in the Willamette Valley. All the same, we got hit with gusts that made me sway a little in the saddle. So I can’t blame her for being on the muscle and worried about her herd.

She has moved to a spring pasture with three other horses. It’s set up with two bigger chunks connected by a smaller corridor. I often find the four of them in the back, and bring her up front. What’s funny is she will then call and call until her friends come up front to join her, and then she settles. This is new behavior for her–but they will come. She also starts calling to them when we get close to the place, and they will answer–and come up to hang out until she goes back out with them.

I’m still just amazed about the difference that a couple of years makes. Two years ago, we were preparing to move her here. She was still struggling with the white line disease and I think was in pain from arthritic joints in the process of fusing. She was depressed and sad. The whole change completely upset her, but given all she had been going through the previous year, in retrospect it wasn’t a surprise. Now, as she prepares to enter her third summer in the Wallowas, she’s completely recovered. There aren’t many 17-year-old horses who feel like they’re seven years younger on a stormy day like yesterday energy-wise, and I’m thrilled to have it happen–I’ve ridden a number of horses her age in lessons, and she just doesn’t feel that old under saddle. Her topline has filled in. She still shows a little rib, but the vet has pronounced her as being in good weight.

Mentally, she’s much more independent than she used to be. That comes with running with a big, stable herd over a rough winter. I’m glad to see it because I notice that it seems to contribute to her being more confident on the roads and trails. I would not have dared take her out on the roads in conditions like yesterday last year. Everything would have made her nervous and worried.

So all that is going well.

I’m working slowly on the writing right now. I’m not sure why that is. I can get going in small pieces–I have a couple of short stories out there that will be circulating, and all, plus I am contemplating what Challenges to Honor will be about. I think part of the issue is that I’m not seeing a lot of sales and I just haven’t had it in me to get out there and do the promotional work. Perhaps the cold, harsh winter? Or just a need to recharge? I’m not certain. Part of it may just be that I am dedicating a lot of energy to defeating the myofascial pain syndrome that has been intensifying over the past year and a half. I think I’m on track for a solution, but I’ve thought that before. One problem is that no one solution works for very long. Whatever it is, though, it interferes significantly with my sleep.

On the other hand, perhaps just putting energy into building my community networks in Enterprise may be part of the situation. I don’t know. It may just be recharge and recovery from the intensity of the past few years. It may be recovering from being totally pissed off at being slammed back into the situations of the Reagan administration politically, with less competence at higher levels (and that’s a scary thing to consider). I do think that this last election has uncovered issues that have been festering since Watergate, and need to be dealt with. I really, really didn’t want to live through these sorts of time at my age–oh well, it is what it is.

I do know that I need to get a newsletter out soon. I need to blog more. I need to do many other things.

And maybe it’s just that I am finally settling in and giving myself space to do so. We shall see.

Comments Off on Transitions, new promo banner, and trails on foot and horseback

Filed under blather

Happy belated birthday, Mocha

For some reason I was thinking that Mocha turned 17 today. No, it was last Saturday. Still, she’s doing quite well with herself and is the picture of a content horse living outside 24/7 in a herd.

Three years ago, I wasn’t sure she was going to make it this far. The white line disease had affected her mentally, and she really didn’t start bouncing back from that until the fall of 2015, when we finally figured out what was wrong with her feet (mild long-term rotation which meant that the way she had been shod and trimmed up to that point had contributed to a quarter inch erosion of the tip of the coffin bone in both her forefeet). Even with that, she was still hurting and not completely over it until late last fall. Some of that had to do with moving her toe back and raising her heel a little, which is resulting in her feet getting a little bit bigger so that she will soon be a genuine 0 front shoe instead of a 00 in a 0 shoe in order to give her support. Another factor had to do with something fusing in her rear end besides her hocks–SI joint, stifles, something–so that she naturally stands upright in her hind end and doesn’t walk by placing one hind foot in front of the other (ropewalking). I had noticed late last fall that she wasn’t ropewalking any more. Then we had two and a half months of cold and snowy weather. When the weather cleared, I noticed that she was moving better, lining out bigger and faster in a bold, strong walk, and while she wasn’t spinning like she did as a young horse, neither was she resisting it like she had been for a while.

More than that, she grew a thick hair coat this winter and is shedding it out. What little I can see of the spring coat underneath has me hoping that she’s going to be sleek and shiny this year. She’s also had almost two years of some of the best grass and hay in the region, and it shows. I also upped her grain ration (mostly forage-based with alfalfa, beet pulp, and hay fiber) to 3 pounds from 1 1/2 pounds. She’s filled out and calmed down quite a bit, while still having a bit of spark and sting about her. That said, I have to feed the grain before and after a ride in 1 1/2 pound increments because she stops wanting to eat it after 1 1/2 lbs. But she’s doing well on only grain while being ridden.

She’s getting to the point where crossing the ditch is no big deal. I point her at it, she negotiates her way down, then leaps up the bank on the other side.

Meanwhile, we’ve been having nice riding sessions in the big pasture with long straight lopes and trots. Today I asked for flying changes on the straightaway and there was no fuss or bother about it.

We’re coming to an end for the pasture season, though. Soon it will become a grain field and we’ll be back to arena and road riding until October. This summer, we’re planning to take her out hiking with us–husband wants to walk while I ride, probably us riding ahead for fifteen minutes, then riding back. Guess I’d better put the strings back on her Western saddle so we can tie things to it. Right now, though, I’ve been riding her in English tack. For the first time in ages, the saddle seems to fit her and it’s nice for this stage of her conditioning. It’s time to move toward reestablishing her proper muscling. Not that I plan to get too crazy about it–at age 17, especially after she had some rough times, she’s mostly a hacking horse. But that doesn’t mean we might not decide to hit a show or two, either….

I’m hoping to get another seven years or so out of her as a saddle horse. It seems like changing her life from stall horse to pasture horse has given her a new lease on life. At least this spring, it’s been awfully sweet to have my good little saddle mare back, feeling her energy and forwardness underneath me. I’m also daydreaming about the possibility of riding her from the barn to town, hanging out around the house for a couple of hours, then riding her back. We’ll have to see if that works. It is a fun idea, anyway….

Comments Off on Happy belated birthday, Mocha

Filed under Horse life

Horseblog 101–tack, guidance, and basics of the aids

One of my friends made a comment the other day about English vs Western riding that rocked me back on my haunches, so to speak–an observation that based on her experience, she felt that English riding was gentler on a horse than Western. A few questions, and I realized that this perception was based solely on how horses were guided at the beginner level, especially with the use of words such as yanking and tugging to describe rein effect. Now I know that many of my friends already know this stuff, or they’ve been reading horse information spread throughout the speculative fiction world–but the knowledge isn’t as wide as I thought it is. So I decided that perhaps I’d do a little refresher on reins, tack, guidance, and basics.

The first thing to consider is that while someone who is a beginning horseperson or has no experience at all looks at the reins as acting as a major means of controlling a horse, in reality, reins are merely a steering mechanism–and ideally, more of a backup method than the primary means of controlling a horse. A determined horse can and will run through the severest bit and tightest hold you can have on its mouth, if given sufficient motivation–whether anger, frustration, or fear. One of the goals in creating a fully-trained horse–what we call a “finished” horse–is to end up with a horse that will respond to almost telepathic levels of communication through seat, leg, and then hand. The ideal is that by shifting weight, you can change a horse’s direction, slow the horse, collect the horse into moving in balance, or stop it. Leg cues add more options, such as sharper turns, bends, body angle in relation to direction of movement, or gait changes. Hand cues aid with collection, provide guidance, and maintain a line of communication with a horse.

These goals work no matter what the tack is or isn’t on a horse. English or Western, the mark of a good rider is the degree to which you can’t see the cueing going on. That said, if you are working at speed, or things go weird, the ideal might not happen. But ideally, what you want to be able to do is shift weight, touch leg, squeeze a rein to communicate with a horse underneath you. Or even less. Turning your head can turn the horse, even with dropped reins and no leg or seat cues. It’s a shift of weight, and a sensitive, well-trained horse will respond to it.

The problem comes when dealing with either green (minimal or no training) horses, green riders, or horses who have been desensitized to subtle cues by inexperienced or heavy-handed riders who yank, kick, and tug. Green horses need repeated, gentle, soft communication to teach them appropriate responses to cueing. Green riders need to learn how to stabilize their bodies and control them to provide the more subtle methods of cueing. Desensitized horses need repeated, soft, consistent work to bring them back to lighter response.

Ideally, happy horses and happy riders communicate with minimal force–and that all comes back to communicating in whispers, not shouts. Which means a light touch on the rein, balanced seat, and reading what the horse tells you through hand and seat. Yes, you can feel what the horse is doing through the tack–English or Western.

This isn’t the ideal post for this, but it’s what I’ve got for tonight.

Comments Off on Horseblog 101–tack, guidance, and basics of the aids

Filed under Horse life

Slow dancing toward the apocalypse…or is it snowpocalypse?

 

March 1 in the Winter That Never Ends. Winter 2.5 in the Wallowas, with the weight still tilting heavily toward cold and snowy rather than less cold and less snowy. Of course, this winter is closer in severity to the winter of 1981-82 that we spent here before moving to Portland. But then we left before the chinook and the melting and the transition toward temperatures around freezing. Tonight, I sat out in the porch at 31 degrees F and felt perfectly comfortable. Almost tropical. Then I had to laugh at the idea of 31F feeling warm. But it does, after subzero temps and serious cold like we went through this winter. It’s rewarding to be here during the sloppy wet not-quite-mud-but-still-mud season. Beats the pants out of the early spring season allergies plus mud on the Wet Side.

But we aren’t done with snow. It’s snowed twice since we came back from the last trip to Portland. One time was a dusting, the other a snowfall of about 3 inches. It all melted. We still have the big piles of glaciated snow from the earlier snow, but it’s not like it was. Mocha and I can romp in the field and even play with a little bit of lope in the current soft snow that she can brush through without postholing. We’ve both learned a lot more about dealing with snow under saddle this winter.

The writing proceeds slowly. I  look at my publishing plan for this year and shake my head. But when I made this plan back in January, I still wasn’t accounting for the change that my decision to become more active in community affairs makes in my writing schedule. Also, I didn’t anticipate the sudden rise of anthologies–humorous and political alike–that I want to submit to.

I have decided that short stories take longer to write than their novel versions. In the novel, I plot aggressively and in detail, but in executing the work, I have about 2000 words a day to play around in. I can rack up that word count.

Not so with the short story. I’ve figured out that if I try to plot a short story as rigorously as I do a novel, then I start throwing everything but the kitchen sink of backstory into the short story and…um, that doesn’t work. I have to have a rough idea and then pants it from there. Let the story flow from my fingertips, and fix it after I’m done.

The current project is for Alma Alexander’s Children of a Different Sky anthology (see here for the Indiegogo–please contribute as the proceeds from the anthology’s sale go toward refugee programs). A modern witch going through an experience similar to a Jewish person during the Hitler era…with inspiration from Jo Walton amongst others. Next, I have another possible political theme, plus a humorous anthology to think about. None of these little projects have been accounted for in the writing plan, but…things change.

At times I feel like the main character in my story “Slow Dancing in 3/4 Zombie Time” that came out in Zombiefied I. Things are happening. The world has changed so quickly that I don’t always grasp it.

But then things happen that I can understand and relate to what I am doing, and I get a quick glimpse of what could be.

I just wish those glimpses were more than ephemeral.

Comments Off on Slow dancing toward the apocalypse…or is it snowpocalypse?

Filed under blather