Monthly Archives: March 2012

More thoughts on Western snaffle

I continue to be astonished at the differences between Mocha in the snaffle using the English strap goods/saddle and the Western strap goods/saddle.  Once again today, I had a really good session that was nothing at all like the sessions we’ve had in the Collegiate, and I don’t think it’s all the saddle.

To wit: while today she was stiff (in heat, not wanting to bend well on the right rein), all the same she was soft, maintaining a steady contact that is nothing at all like the contact we had in English, and elevated. Now some of the time I thought she was trying to emulate those Saddlebreds again, but really….

But I don’t think it’s all the saddle.  To some extent, I think it’s the lack of the second noseband (the one on the English headstall never fit her that well).  The Western dropped noseband is lower, goes over the bit and headstall, and allows her to move her jaw a little bit better.  I also think it is those 1″ seven foot latigo leather reins.  There’s a little bit more weight to them, because of the way they connect to the bit they hang more like her romal rein on the curb, and I find that it’s actually a much more secure grip than the web reins.

Whatever it is, so far she takes up the contact differently from the English strap goods.  There’s more relaxation–and, as a result, better movement.

Today, G coached us while giving a lesson.  He commented several times on how nice her lope was (well, it was…much better than her trot today).  It is more relaxed, more elevated, and I’m able to bend her and flex her better.  I’m also finding my best position ever, and half halts?  Oh baby, let me tell you about half halts, I can still feel them in my abs.

I also feel bad because it’s clear the curb has been pinching her for a few weeks.  Not long–I’d like to think I’d have noticed that wiggling in the port–but long enough.  It’s going to take a little while to get a replacement, and I may talk to G about borrowing his mullen mouth curb to see how she goes in it.  We shall see.

All in all, a nice riding day.  Probably the best part of my spring break.

Sigh.  Enough horse post, must get back to household chores and education article.  Sigh.

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Life and how things change sometimes

I was going to ski today.  But then the DH’s car popped a flat, so I need to stay home and deal with it.  Annoying, because this was the main day I had planned to ski (modified plan, original would have been Tuesday and Thursday) this week.  It doesn’t help that I know the slopes will be crazy because of Spring Break…I’m wishing I was skiing in some respects.  But my attitude is changing because my circumstances are changing, in ski bum life, in writing life, in horse life, in work life, in home life.

Much as I’d like to ski and play on the mountain, the reality is, I’m still dealing with a strained back muscle that doesn’t want to heal quickly.  It is improving and getting better, but it’s taking its own sweet time.  I can still ski and ride horse, for example, but riding horse was painful this winter at times and it’s one factor in my going exclusively Western again.  Skiing has been less painful than riding but I have found myself tiring more quickly and feeling colder–a secondary impact but a real one.  The back issue has meant I’m not spending as much time on leg conditioning, and I’m also using legs more than my core to deal with conditions, so the legs tire more quickly.  And the boot liners are probably packing out a little bit, which contributes to ski control issues.  So I’m working harder and tiring more quickly, because I’m less efficient.

Oh well, it’s just the season.  But other changes mean I also have less time to play on the slopes.

For example, my writing life is also changing.  I want to be able to publish as many works this year as I did last year (seven, nonfiction and fiction alike).  That’ll be doable, simply because I am writing special education posts for a psychology blog.  Two of those per month, which means a twice-monthly deadline.  A deadline I control, but a deadline nonetheless.

I also have an invite for an anthology, and I am definitely going to do my best to have a story ready.

Then I have something to send to the Angry Robot open reading, but it needs revision to be more competitive.

And then there’s the Netwalk Sequence, which also needs work and much revision.

Plus I want to develop more political writing outlets as well as more professional writing outlets.  Netwalk and the political pieces will play well into each other, and the professional work will also fit together.

IOW, writing stuff is starting to come together but I need to spend more coherent time dealing with it.  This is the week I had slated to do just that…but here I am, Wednesday, and I’ve not really gotten to setting up the structures I need to make things go well.  So I don’t have time to go play on the slopes.  Needs to be done.

Work is also coalescing.  Let’s just say that I am realizing that perhaps we are starting to piece things back together after the drastic economic cuts of two and a half years ago.  It has been horribly traumatic for all involved–students, staff, community–and only now are we perhaps starting to recover in a small, slight way.  Outsiders really don’t get how horribly severe cuts can impact individual schools.  It takes extraordinary leadership to recover and maintain after such cuts…and if it’s not present, then time gets lost.

Furthermore, I’m realizing how I can apply Interpersonal Neurobiology to my particular educational role.  A lot of what I do well involves small group or one-on-one work with highly defended kids who have either poor school behaviors or poor academic behaviors.  Or both.  In middle school, a lot of time needs to go into coaching these kids and that is a labor-intensive job.  It takes hours, days, weeks, and months to build a foundation of trust and turn things around, time I haven’t had.  It’s not something I’ve been able to do a lot of these past two and a half years, not until now.  I didn’t realize how much I’d missed that intensive level of intervention, and four more hours gave me that time back.

And then there is the preretirement preparation here at home for the DH.  It’s getting to be time to simplify and reinvent things…which also takes a lot of thought and work.  Which is also a part of why I’m dropping the English stuff.

Anyway.  That’s a bit of what’s going on.  Lots of change, much for good but it’s all still change nonetheless.  And now I need to get going on daily life during spring break.

Good grief, I could use another week.

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On being back in the snaffle

I really, really like using the KK Ultra with the Western headstall, dropped noseband and latigo reins.  The headstall is sturdier leather (also latigo leather) and of a better quality than the English headstall, and the latigo leather splits make me keep my hands upright rather than sneak into puppy dog paws or twist them around or whatever the heck else I keep wanting to do instead of keeping them in a correct snaffle rein position.  Interestingly, too, I feel like I was getting a better quality of schooling today in the Western saddle than I have in snaffle work of late in the English saddle.  Just easier to sit more upright and sink my heels down hard.

I suppose that means if I ever get another English saddle I should be looking at dressage saddles instead, or a medium tree rather than a wide tree.  As it were, I found myself using my core more effectively and doing more without that bracing feeling we had the last time I did snaffle, in English.  Lots more half-halts.  Lots more support from the saddle itself.  The Crates does have that little sweet spot that you can lock into which is similar but not quite the same as a dressage saddle thigh block.

And we won’t talk about how much more effective it is to go two-handed in a snaffle rather than a curb.  Oh hey, I guess we are.  Even with a correction curb, it’s not the same, and I’m always backing off because, well, hey, it’s a curb.  But there’s not that same feel that I had in the single-jointed snaffle, either.  With the KK I can pick her up a little bit more effectively and she’s not getting pissy about the joint bumping her in the mouth, either.

I have this sneaking hunch that the Collegiate was grabbing her in the shoulders whenever I started half-halting/working from my core/lower back, especially at the trot and canter, because now her reaction is totally different from when I was doing this in the Collegiate and the KK.  Instead of getting pissy or backing off, she’s rounding up, taking herself forward–and the withers are coming up.  I’m getting a stronger, more elevated trot and a rounder collected canter without the fits and starts and stalling out.

Plus much more effective two-track work at the trot.

So interesting work.  We’ll see where it goes from here.

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Ski Day #15 and other stuff







Yes, I did leave out a ski day.  And other stuff.  What can I say?  It’s been a busy month, and even with various snow days thundering through, I’ve had a lot going on.  For whatever reason, I didn’t feel like blogging.  Not sure why, it’s just the way things are.

So.  Various things.  I’m going to sell my Collegiate saddle, pretty certain of that one.  It’s either update my English show wardrobe and get a new bridle, or pull the plug on English.  Considering that I think the saddle’s not fitting Mocha that well these days, I want to simplify my life, and I sure don’t want to go through the saddle dance…well, I put the KK Ultra into the Western snaffle headstall (which is a much nicer piece of strap goods, anyway) and I’m resuming riding in split reins.  I have to say, riding in the splits is sure showing me where I’ve been cheating in the English reins.  It enforces a better hand position because of the different feel–which is good.

On the writing front, I started out Spring Break by reading from a nonfiction project I’m slowly developing, “The Strike Dance.”  I’m taking my notes from the 2005 strike and consolidating them with commentary and reporting on a potential situation developing in East Multnomah County, where three school districts may shortly be on strike.  The issues are predominantly working conditions, not money, and let’s just say that the working conditions are nasty things.








(Photo by M.F. McAuliffe)

I’m not sure where I’m going with that piece as of yet.

I’m also busy preparing for the Allan Schore workshop on Friday, doing union stuff, doing teaching stuff, busily trying to do some revisions to send off a MS to the Angry Robot open reading, and embarking on the huge world building project WRT to Netwalk.

Plus house stuff.

So ski days were good.  #14 was lovely and powdery, #15 was a bit icy and firm but still nice.

Horse is moving right along.

New car is nice.

I’ve planted sweet peas, sugar snap peas, California poppies and nasturtiums in the yard.  We’re definitely getting a running start at the spring garden.

And now I’m off for another busy day.

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Horses and grooming

Mocha loves to be groomed.  It’s part of her whole Princess Pony persona.  After a good hard workout, her clear idea of a perfect post-ride primping is a good, solid roll in the arena followed by a thorough brushing.

She’s one of those horses who makes a science out of rolling.  Never rolls all the way over but once, but that’s after she’s thoroughly scratched and itched everything on that one side, which means several half-rolls.  If she can do it in soft arena dirt then she’ll work her face over and over until she’s satisfied.  Footing is a big deal.  She won’t roll if the ground is frozen and hard, and she’s a lot less enthusiastic about rolling on a firm surface.  After the roll, she stands by the gate with a relaxed, blissful expression on her face; eyes, ears and lips relaxed.  But that’s just the beginning of the post-ride groom.

On hot days, she gets less grooming and a solid rinse instead.  She clearly likes doing that and at liberty will turn right into the wash stall without being prompted.  On cold days, as I progress through the ritual of soft curry, stiff brush, soft brush, she’ll relax and drop her head, leaning into the brush a little bit when I hit an itchy spot.  During shedding season, like right now, I’ll lead out with the shedding blade and that gets the blissed-out, relaxed mare right away.

Last night she was funny about it.  We’d had a good work, including a long session with a very nice working trot.  Not at all Western, think of it as a good seated trot in dressage, only with Western curb and saddle.  No jog about it at all, but she was round, elevated, and soft.  Just…faster than will get you pinned in any Western rail class. I had to sit up, breathe deep, tighten my abs and soften my back to follow and sustain this big, energetic trot as a sitting trot.  But it was definitely different from posting trot as well as Western jog.  The more I softened my back and sat up and back, the bigger and more elevated she got.

(I am thinking about selling my English saddle because I am now consistently getting good elevation in the Western saddle.  But that’s another post)

Anyway, it was a long, conditioning work rather than any pattern work.  She came out cool with only the slightest bit of wetness after.  So she had a good roll, and then I got to work on the winter coat with the shedding blade.  I got the equivalent of a Standard Rex in hair off of her, and she was relaxed and drowsy before I was even done with the shedding blade.  A bit of precise scritching with the stiff brush under her mane earned an appreciative lean into the brush with happy horse nose wiggles while I addressed the itch.

A good night, both under saddle and grooming.  More food for thought about where I’m going with tack and riding.  Simplifying sounds pretty good.

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Poor little birdies

Snow again this morning, and things look like this:







When I went out to the Nyger seed feeder, a female House Finch and a female Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler piteously stayed hunkered down on the seed tray as I approached.  The finch flew off as soon as I reached up to take the feeder down, but the warbler, her feathers all ruffled up, wouldn’t move.  So I took the other mixed seed feeder down, giving her time to fly off, but she wouldn’t go.  She clung to the feeder even as I took it down, and it took me gently trying to persuade her to hop onto my finger to get her to fly off.

I’m not sure if she’s sick or if she’s just at the borderline.  She hasn’t come back to the feeder.  She seemed to be a young bird as well, so that may be a factor.

It’s snowing intermittently right now.  Looks like Addie-the-car will get her first icy commute trial today.   Definitely a more sensitive car than her predecessor, as I discovered on the icy, hail-strewn drive home yesterday.  Wish I had the snow tires on her but that will happen later in the week.

Meanwhile, I’m glad I’ve had the feeder up for the little twitterbirds.  Seed and suet both.  Hope the little one makes it, but I know the odds for a little one in migration phase (the Yellow-rumped Warblers don’t live down here, this is the typical migration time for these birdies) can be a challenge.

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Meet Addie

I’m not prone to naming cars.  It’s just not something I’ve done.  Oh, a few metal beasts have gotten tagged with nicknames not always repeatable in all-ages audiences, but overall, I’ve not been a namer of cars.

Now, I kinda regret it, since the Mighty Subaru has gone from our lives.  No big breakdown, but there were signs that it was starting to show the miles.   And since the Mighty Subie is not just my work transportation taking me through some somewhat interesting microclimates but our primary ski/backwoods vehicle, and being that we are becoming Old Pharts, we decided something newer was in the cards, while the Mighty Subie still had a resale value.  We did give it one last run to the Mountain, where she served mightily.


And reliably, need I say more?

But now, she’s been replaced.




The new car is also a Subaru Outback, in a gunmetal gray that almost looks black.  She’s been driven home and properly loaded with working tools for my commute, as well as stickers.  There’s a lot of new bells and whistles on this one, and this is a low-end model.  I wonder what’s on the high-end–eek.

Anyway, after stickering her up, I noticed that I’d kind of set off the Next Adventure sticker.  The more I looked at it on her, the more I realized that she’s the harbinger of our next set of Adventures.  Next Adventure, indeed.

And so that is her name.  Next Adventure, otherwise known as Addie.







Looks like an Addie to me.

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Ski Day #13

No pictures today.  DH and I got up, got moving and got up to Timberline in plenty of time  despite it being the first day of Daylight Savings Time.

It was a properly stormy day, 24 degrees F and a steady, strong wind.  There’s been quite a bit more snow since we last skied, which made it nice.  Fresh, crispy snow as well.  It’s allergy season down in the valley, which meant getting back up into the Land of Winter without any pollen was a welcome relief.  Even if it meant getting into cold and wind.  My nose cleared right up, which was a dead giveaway that allergies are more than a wee factor.

Took the DH down Vicky’s Run for the first time, and he liked it.  Then I took him down Molly’s (a black diamond) and he did a respectable job of it.  Molly’s is an interesting little set of pitches.  I don’t think I want to see it without snow on it, though, I suspect it’s pretty much a cliff.  The big mounds of deep snow made it tiring and a bit of a challenge.  Nonetheless, we did it without falls.

But at last the cold wind and me being tired out from a long weekend at OEA-PIE did me in.  Gusts were so strong from the southwest that they stopped or significantly slowed me at the top of Jojami and the last pitch of Uncle Jon’s Band.  I’ve got a bit of windburn on my face even with my good moisturizer to protect it.  We called it a day after about two and a half hours and came home, wherein I promptly took a nap.  Not going to be good for much else today, either–clogged sinuses and all.

Dang spring.

But at least we’ve got a nice base of snow to take us through the spring.  It looks like we’ll be getting a bunch more snow this week as well.  It may be spring down here in the valley, but up on the Mountain it’s twenty degrees colder and still deep in the grasp of winter.

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Anyone home?

Well, uh, that was a busy week.  It’s been a time of running around like a maniac doing various things, none of which happened to be blogging.  And next week looks to be more of the same.

Ah well.  It is what it is.  I got sucked into a major worldbuilding marathon, and in the process ended up blowing the doors off of some of the original Netwalk concepts.  When I get done with it, if I can manage to pull off something this ambitious, it should be a sweet little thing.  Or not so little.  I’m not really sure of that.  Could be something.  At the very least I have a process post in the making, once I recover and get to the actual writing thereof, that is.

Work is a runaway horse of craziness right now.  Nothing bad, just seasonal crazy busy time.  Trimester change, beginning of the end of the year wrap-up, beginning of the statewide assessment period, throw in a couple of snow days and late openings intermixed with warm spring weather, and the whole thing turns into a three ring circus.  Oh yeah, been here before.  And this is a union involvement year, with three neighboring districts poised to go on strike, which means additional activism in the form of attending rallies and offering reassuring advice to worried colleagues that You Can Survive A Strike, BTDT, At Least It’s Spring Thank God (my local’s three and a half week strike seven years ago coincided with the beginning of a particularly wild and strong winter).  In memory, I may need to pull out a series of notes I took at the time and turn them into posts, or something.  Perhaps a giveaway ebook or something like that.

And then there was the OEA-PIE political endorsement convention, which is a post unto itself.  Let’s just say that despite my strong past political background, I’ve never experienced anything quite like this process.  Very interesting.  I met all of Oregon’s Congressional Representatives (Bonamici, Walden, Blumenaer, DeFazio, Schrader) and the three statewide incumbents up for election (Labor Commission, Secretary of State, Treasurer).  Plus I did something a younger me would have been totally outraged about–ended up supporting the endorsement of someone I would never have thought of supporting even for pragmatic purposes.  How things change as we age.  But more of that later.

Horse has been getting ridden, and that’s it’s own post.  She did something absolutely ridiculous and yet so Mocha-ish that I still get the giggles about it.  We did some interesting stuff this week, and I’m still processing that.

So yeah.  It’s been a busy time.  At some point the whirlwind will slow down.  I’m just not sure when that will be.

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A busy weekend and no more tree

No skiing this weekend, primarily because we spent Friday and Saturday night at a Poor Man’s Whiskey/Railroad Earth concert at the Crystal Ballroom.  Talk about a sweet bluegrass session…despite working all day, once PMW started up, I was on my feet and down on the famed bouncing floor, clogging my heart out.  An eminently danceable band, with a good mix of bluegrass, rock and spacey music (to give you an idea, one of Poor Man’s Whiskey’s CDs is titled “Dark Side of the Moonshine” with one disc being PMW’s version of “Dark Side of the Moon” and the second their regular stuff).

Railroad Earth was its usual stupendous self.  We had an interesting mix of old folks sitting around us both nights…one night was a Texas lady who had moved to Yreka (and didn’t miss Texas worth a bit) who despite her Very Straight Hairstyle and looks, was, um, shall we say, quite the hippie chick?  The other was a couple from Eugene.  Folks were friendly, social, and from quite a few other places besides PDX.  Like several other bands, RRE attracts a tour following, and it was definitely a mellow evening.  We didn’t last to the end on either night, but hey–a fun time was had by all.

Saturday, I primarily rode Mocha and scraped winter coat off.  She’s shedding heavily now and so, after a hard work, I was able to skin a lot of hair off of her.  More to come, but she’s distinctly less hairy than she was.  This week has been interesting.  She’s processing stuff from the horse show, things she observed and things she started yielding and doing.  I got more softening from her this week, and she’s stepping a bit higher after watching the Saddlebreds move.  No, really.

She had a good attitude after the show.  You always have to wonder, first time back up after a long spell in the saddle.  But she showed no soreness, no sourness.  If anything, she was more intense about doing her work.  I started adding in some Horsemanship-type patterns and she’s really getting into that.

Today, DH and I did yard work.  Here’s some before and after of what I did:

Before (well, halfway through)














Now maybe the day lilies and columbines will have a fighting chance against the grass.

Meanwhile, DH attacked the Norfolk pine that’s threatening to conquer the back yard, overshadow the garden and the Grimes Golden apple we planted last year, and encroach on the neighbor’s property.  A big branch broke off of it during our heavy snow this winter, revealing that the durn thing is pretty brittle.  So we decided to take it down before it got too big to take down easily.

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