Monthly Archives: October 2012

Reining and skiing

I had a revelation last night while working Mocha and musing about both G and husband’s comments about our reining performance.  G said that we had the best control at speed, and DH said we looked totally natural, a horse running because she wanted to run and the rider flowing with her, directing her.  Plus there was the barn rat whose comment after our first run was “Day-UM.  You two were smoking out there.”

I have no idea what it looked like, myself.  No pictures, no video, at least to my knowledge.  I know what it felt like to ride those runs, and we were going fast enough for my well-fitted felt cowboy hat to wobble (which takes some doing, it’s a very snug fit.  Don’t usually have that problem with the show hat).

But I had to wonder–just how did I get to the point where I could ride fast with that degree of control?  Even up to about six months ago, fast galloping was best done in two-point for my balance.

And then I figured it out.  Skiing, in particular, developing the skill and confidence to take on challenging and steep runs, as well as skiing fast (relatively fast, for me).   Before I skied, I had a fairly common problem with riding circles at speed–I’d lean in a little (a phenomenon known as motorcycling/motorbiking in the horse world and frowned upon).  That puts both horse and rider off balance.  When I started the baby schooling working Mocha at speed about six months ago, I started automatically and smoothly shifting my weight to my outside stirrup and my outside seatbone.  It felt like second nature and it contributed to the ability to run faster with better balance.  Mocha responded eagerly and I found I could direct and control her better.

So where did I learn that?  Working my way down Palmer and some other steep slopes.  Effective turning in those circumstances means weighting the outside ski and edge, then shifting quickly and smoothly to the opposing edge.  My balance was more forward, more hunt seat than Western, but this past year I started working on skiing a bit more upright due to back issues, while still maintaining the correct balance.  And, on the steeper slopes, leaning into the hill is a no-no because then the skis slide out from under you.

Interesting.  Improving my ski balance also helped improve my riding work.

I love it when a plan comes together, even though this one really wasn’t planned.

And now, if it would only snow……

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Writer squee/brag time!

The lovely and talented Alma Alexander just announced that River, the anthology she recently edited, is a finalist for the Epic Award.  Read about it here.

I’m thrilled for Alma, because her vision for this anthology made it a lovely collection.  But I also have to admit that I’m thrilled because my story, “River-Kissed,” is part of the anthology.

So that pushed me over the top as to what I’ll be reading at Orycon this year (Friday, 4:00 pm-4:30 pm, Grant).  If you’re attending Orycon, come hear my contribution to this lovely anthology–and then check out Irene Radford’s reading on Sunday morning at 10:30 am–I wouldn’t be surprised if she read from her story for the anthology.

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And the newest story twist….

An interesting little twist just happened in the Netwalker Uprising rewrite…..

“No word from Nik yet,”  Angela said grimly, scowling at Melanie through the screen.  “It’s been four hours.  And our strike force isn’t picking up anything unusual on their scanners.  If it wasn’t a Courts operation, I’d send them in closer at least to get more info.  I’m afraid they’ve been picked up.  Can you get any information?”

Melanie sighed and shook her head.  “I’m embargoed from any data on this op, Ange.”  Makes me crazy.  But no options, no choices.

“Wait a minute.”  Angela raised one hand.  “Some sort of action.  Finally!  Our skimmer’s just taken off from Southern California, under pursuit.  Action at last!  Sending our team in to watch their backs!”

URGENT.  URGENT.  URGENT, her screen flashed, ID blocked.

“I’ve got a blocked ID message,”  she told Angela, quickly tracing the ID.  “Andrew.”

“The shit has well and truly hit the fan,”  Angela said.

“I’ll link you in.”  Melanie popped it open.

“What the fuck are you doing, Melanie?”  Andrew shrieked, hair dishevelled, eyes wild.  “Jesus God, WHAT THE GODDAMN FUCK ARE YOU DOING!”

“Slow down, Drew!  What are you talking about?”


“Take a deep breath and calm down, Andrew!  It’s not my operation, it’s fucking Zoë Wright’s operation!  The Courts are in charge!”

“And it’s your goddamned hit man leading it,”  Andrew hissed.  “I’m filing Contract, precious sister of mine, I’M FILING CONTRACT UNLESS I GET HER BACK!  NOW!”

“I CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT!”  Melanie screamed back, doing her best to project an Enforcer tone.  It was enough to startle Andrew into silence.  She took a deep breath, watching Andrew closely as he swallowed hard, shaking his head.  “Andrew,”  she said in her lowest voice that would still carry through the feed.  “The Courts conscripted Nik on this operation.  It’s a Courts operation.  It’s connected to Seattle.  She’s the host of the Netwalker enabling these attacks.

“Mel, she can’t be a Netwalker host.”  Andrew’s voice cracked.  “She’s my consort now, not my Security.  And she’s pregnant.”

Holy Mother of God, no wonder he’s so angry.  “Drew, I’m sorry.  We’ve got the evidence showing that she’s been involved with the highest circles of the Freedom Army for some time now.”

“Why–what–that can’t be,”  Andrew spluttered.

“Direct from Deirdre Conley.  Celina was Tim Conley’s comfort woman and now she’s his host.”

Silence.  Andrew stared at Melanie.

“The–thing–is involved, Andrew.  Somehow, they’ve managed to link into the gadget.  I don’t know how bad this is, Drew, but it’s bad.  I don’t think I’m being told just how bad it is.”  How much dare I tell him of what I know?  From the sick look on Andrew’s face, it was clear he understood the implications.  He deserves to know it.  He’s on the Exec too.  She looked down, chewing on her lower lip, thinking it through.  He’s her lover, though.  And she’s carrying his child.  Holy crap, how much more does that add to Gizmo being compromised?

“I just got a complete file from the Courts,”  Andrew said in a very small voice.  “Mel.  Please.  Tell me before I look.  How bad is this?  I know it’s bad from the coding, there’s sanctions in it against me, but how bad is this?  Another one.

She knew the feeling well, too damned well.  He deserves to know.

“She’s linked to a virus that took Sarah down.  We’re trying to patch things together now.  From Deirdre Conley’s information, Tim Conley was the other lead Netwalk developer for the Freedom Army, along with Gina Jeffreys.  Conley’s dead, apparently voluntarily uploaded as a Netwalker.  And somehow he, Liam and Stewart have found a way to access a level in–it–called the Shadow Chamber.”

“Oh Jesus God,”  Andrew groaned, resting his forehead on his hand, shaking it back and forth slowly.  “Oh Jesus God.”  He looked up.  “Mel.  I had no idea.  Honestly.  I had no idea.

“I didn’t know about Liam either.”

Andrew swallowed.  “Point taken.  Thank you.  I don’t know if anyone else would have bothered.”  He slammed his hand down hard on the arm of his chair.  “What the fuck do I do now?  What the fuck do I do, Mel!  She’s pregnant and–well–I love her.  Or at least I thought I loved her.  If it’s real and not a manipulation.  But this–connection.  That’s not something to play with.  What the fuck do I do?

Think.  This gives you a chance to mend things with Drew.  Melanie tapped her fingertips on her chair arm.

“Nik’s taking her to the Mountain,”  Angela interposed.  “Just got a private.  Not here, there.”

“Why there?”

“Diana.  Her orders.”

“What kind of game is Mom playing?”  Andrew asked.

“I don’t know, but–”  Melanie sucked in her lower lip.  “It’s not with Sarah’s advice.  Not this soon after I sent her in the chip to recuperate.  Ange.  How fast can you get us moved there with a full working lab staff?  Not Corporate staff, that’ll take too long and we don’t need it immediately.  That can be a standard transfer.”

“Six hours.  That’s bare bones and it includes your mother.”

“Who’s controlling the Mountain, my staff or hers?”

Angela half-grinned.  “Right now it looks like her staff.  But that can change in twenty minutes.”

“Make it happen.”


And I’d like to do more, but the Day Jobbe calleth.


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Winter riding time….

Now that I have Mocha in the Back on Track hock boots with a plan to give her the weekend off from them (per recommendation from the manufacturer), there’s been some interesting complications to the horse life.  Today, I premiered the next step of the new regime by stopping to put her boots on before going to work.  When I finally reached the barn tonight (prep time at work plus meeting), the hocks were toasty warm.  And The Girl was ready to work.  Not as elevated as Friday, but still, very much of a difference.

We also spotted a covey of quail outside the arena door early in the warmup (second walk loop).  I reacted in predictable ADHD mode…”Oooh!  QUAIL!  SHINY!” and pulled Mocha up at the door to watch them.  About twenty quail in all, pretty good-sized.  They skittered back and forth, nervous about us watching them, then finally flew off.  Mocha didn’t get excited but just watched them, ears forward.  Good horse.

The work was snaffle, pretty much plain vanilla schooling.  Tight circles are right out because the footing is slick in places thanks to the monsoonal downpour outside creating seepage and some drips.  We did several fanciful features that had larger small circles but allowed us to avoid the slick spots while still working on bends and changes.  After a bit of limbering up, we schooled counter-canter and a few tempi changes.  She’s tense about it, but that’s why we’re schooling in the snaffle.

After that it was just plain putting on some mileage.  Schooling figure 8 circles, but lots of trot as well of canter before changing direction/leads.  Consistency in reading seat and leg is the name of the game, and this winter I really want to improve the shape and placement of our larger circles.

At the end she was sweating pretty good but breathing steadily.  Normal function of early winter weather in the high 40s in early winter/late fall haircoat.  Walked her out then stuck her on the crossties with the cooler on while I checked waters and did other small errands.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased.  She’s clearly moving better, even after only a few hours with the boots on this round.  More responsive to seat and leg, springy movement in the hind end.  She’s also more willing and relaxed about working on things like counter-canter and tempi changes.  Clearly an arthritis/pain issue.  Not that she hasn’t been compliant before, but she has more energy and is just a bit more keen about her work, which clearly makes it a case of a low-level but very real pain that makes her more self-protective.  The end of ride coolout walk was her big, happy, swinging walk.

Had the barn to ourselves, rain drumming on the corrugated metal roof, other horses occasionally stirring but for the most part, a quiet schooling ride as wet afternoon became damp evening.  Yep.  Winter riding time, once again.

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Orycon 2012 schedule–Nov. 2-4

Notice a little bit early, but if any of you are going to be at Orycon, do say hi!  Especially at my reading at 4 pm on Friday!  I think I might be giving something away for that one…and keep in mind, Friday I will be coming in directly from parent conferences.  Eiyiyi.  So I’ll probably still look teacherish.


To Outline or Not to Outline, that is the question Lincoln  Fri Nov 2  2:00pm-3:00pm

Some authors were taught to draw up outlines of their entire story arc before fleshing out their writing. Others have developed different methods which serve them well. Experienced authors discuss what works for them, when, and perhaps, why. Karen Azinger, Dave Smeds, Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Joyce Reynolds Ward’s Readings Grant Fri Nov 2 4:00pm-4:30pm Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Plus a Meet and Greet for Workshop participants.


A touch of Farmer, a pinch of LeGuin Morrison Sat Nov 3 12:00pm-1:00pm

Panelists discuss their biggest influences and what books have changed the recent landscape in SF/F/H literature. Keffy R. M. Kehrli, Deborah J. Ross, Joyce Reynolds-Ward

Group 5 Fantasy Short Story/Novel Excerpt WW2 Sat Nov 3 1:00pm-2:00pm Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Irene Radford

Can Dumbing Down be Reversed? Ross Island Sat Nov 3 3:00pm-4:00pm Kristin Landon, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Arthur Bozlee, Rory Miller

Playing God: Apocalyptic storytelling Hawthorne Sat Nov 3 5:00pm-6:00pm Writing the end times. Flood, plague, the degradation of moral values? How to write a believable and satisfying end to your imaginary world. Blake Hutchins, (*)Ken Scholes, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Bob Brown


Geeks v nerds v freaks Madison Sun Nov 4 12:00pm-1:00pm To which do you aspire? What are the differences and similarities, and to what proportion are they found? What function (or anti-function?) do we, er, they, serve? Annie Bellet, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, (*)Janet Freeman, Anthony Pryor

The Autistic Spectrum: is Autism really on the rise, or are diagnostics just getting better? Hawthorne Sun Nov 4 1:00pm-2:00pm Kamila Miller, G. David Nordley, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, (*)Janet Freeman, Karen Black

At what point does society stop being civilized? Madison Sun Nov 4 2:00pm-3:00pm (*)Rhiannon Louve, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Judith R. Conly

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New tidbit from Netwalker Uprising

Hot off the word processor:

Angela found Nik packing his go-bag in the armory.  He looked up at her from working the action of his preferred sniper rifle, face that studied blank he maintained before going out on a black operation.

“So it’s come to this,”  she said.

“Not what you think it is,”  Nik said, nodding to himself as he examined the action one last time before swiftly breaking the rifle down into travel components.  “Mel can’t file Contract on Andrew, and he can’t file on her.  Not while they’re both on the Gizmo Exec.”  He fitted the rifle components into the compact bag, then picked up a blaster, checking the charge.  “My job is to bring Mariskova back.  Alive.”

“Do you even know where she is?”

“Southern California.  Something with Stephens, but no longer Head of Security.”  He packed the blaster.  “My job to find that out.  They’re keeping her under close wraps.”

She knew better than to ask about his recon.  “Alone or with support?”

“I’m taking Karl.  I need an Enforcer.”  He sighed.  “Ange, too much of this is locked up in Exec issues.  I can’t get more than Karl involved, because I’m not necessarily doing this just for Mel.  This job has Exec approval, Mel and Andrew excluded because of their role.”  He packed five stun poppers.  “Depending on what I find out, this could get one hell of a lot bigger.  We’re moving fast and silent.”  He shook the bag gently, then picked it up.

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Some horse training thoughts, reining, Western Pleasure

Donning my asbestos undies here….

Well, maybe not.  I don’t tend to attract a lot of the passionate equine arguers to this blog.  But it should serve as a lovely example of horse neepery to the non-horsey.

Anyway.  At the horse show this past weekend, I observed (in the frenzy of competition myself), two entirely different facets of the Western reining world.  Reining competition (for those not in the know) is frequently compared to dressage in the English world for its performance demands with regard to the level of athletic ability required to perform at the highest levels.  Many of the complex movements in both disciplines are similar.  Many of the training methods are similar.

Good and bad alike (well, okay, I doubt that aggressive fencing is common in dressage, while rollkur has its adherents in reining).

I saw training examples of both.  One trainer openly stated this show was a prep for a big California show.  That trainer and the trainer’s students rode in a very similar style.  Heavy-handed.  I literally saw one student yank and jerk her horse to a stop, see-sawing on the reins.  Every damn horse this trainer and their students rode looked more like a heavily framed up Western Pleasure horse than a reiner.  Backed off the bit, overfaced, sullen horses.  The trainer’s own mount moved off stiff-legged after a run.  The trainer was standoffish and a little bit pushy, and the trainer’s students were kind of the same (except for one extremely polite student).  None of this trainer’s students completed the pattern.

Those horses had good spins, though.  But I can imagine the aggressive schooling done for those spins.

That trainer and the students spent a lot of time in the warmup arena as well, riding and riding and riding.

In contrast, the other trainer was friendly and chatty with all of us.  This trainer took the time to give me some tips.  The horses this trainer’s students rode accepted the bit and carried it without being backed off of it.  The trainer hollered about seat and leg cues, not snatch and jerk like the other one.  None of these horses looked like broken-backed overfaced Western Pleasure horses.  Spins weren’t as fancy, and there were schooling moments, but overall the rest of the ride was much more correct.  Those horses also didn’t get their legs worn out in the warmup arena.  The trainer had a number of horses in the string coming back from layoffs (mostly due to injuries or broodmare time).  The trainer and students didn’t push the horses past the limits of what the horses could do in their current condition.  The trainer’s philosophy is one close to mine–this trainer repeatedly said “if a horse can do reining, they can do anything else” and talked about the value of cross-disciplinary training.

Which leads into a corollary thought.  One buzz that went around the holding pen during the beginning of Western Pleasure was a half-heard, quiet comment from one big exhibitor to another that these judges meant to enforce the rules on head position.  I didn’t hear all of it because I went off to show in Equitation, but the general buzz from what I heard was quiet approval.  I know I didn’t see much of the excessive broken-backed peanut roller movement.  In fact, a couple of the consistently higher scoring Pleasure horses were ranch types, moving out on light contact with light collection, nose slightly ahead of the vertical, head and neck either level or slightly above.  They also demonstrated the consistency and smoothness I associate with a good Pleasure horse.

That said, for me, a Pleasure class is a means to an end–practice in moving consistently and smoothly at all three gaits, in the show ring.  I can get that to a certain degree at our home arena.  Getting it in the show ring is still a different story.  Mocha is not bred to be a Pleasure horse, but she can certainly move respectably enough to place in a well-judged class.  At least in walk/jog.  Once it becomes walk/jog/lope it’s clear she’s a reiner.

Nonetheless, I figure it’s worthwhile to school for the consistency of Pleasure gaits because that turns around and helps me with the consistency and control I need to have with Mocha at speed in a reining run.  G told me today that she looked and moved like a reiner should, especially in her large fast circles.  It was clear we were fast but also under control.  I don’t think the two months we spent schooling large/fast and small/slow transitions necessarily built that speed control.  I do think the long periods we’ve spent schooling the maintenance of smooth and consistent pace at all three gaits created it.

Let’s just say that maybe I’m seeing that some of my theories about schooling seem to be coming together.  I prefer a horse to accept bit contact rather than be backed off like the horses of the first trainer.  In that respect, I’ll enter a Pleasure class with no real expectation of placing simply to practice consistent pace in a show ring setting.  But then again, for me, Pleasure’s a seasoning and schooling class, and a stepping stone to more challenging work for horse and rider.  That’s what I always thought it should be, rather than an end in itself.

But that’s a minority point of view.

Anyway, this is getting disjointed and rambling.  But I wanted to get these thoughts down before they skittered away.  Just a few thoughts from the horsey side of my brain.

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Show Report, OHA Gold Classic

This show ended up being a number of firsts for both me and Mocha.  Some of the biggest firsts for her included her first overnight/multi-day show and her first trip to a show alone without a barn buddy.  While we did several classes that were new to us (actually, the bulk of the classes were first timers), those two factors were really huge for her.  There definitely was an adjustment issue, but not enough to throw off her ability to perform.  She was anxious, yes, but it was more of the same sort of anxiety she showed at her first show, where she screamed any time she went outside of the barn and away from other horses.  In the barn and in the arena, she did fine.

I got inspired by watching halter classes and banded her mane–a first for both of us.  Instead of a single row of bands, I did a double row.  Saw it on a little dun mare who was clearly a reiner type, with a mane like Mocha’s, and thought it looked cute.  So I spent an hour banding her mane.  It looked cute, was an attractive way to give her a little bit of a cultured look, and the bands stayed in all weekend with only a few falling out overnight.  Win!  The process also relaxed Mocha and sent her into drowsy mode.  Girl does like her primping!

I got further inspired and added 18 and Over Showmanship to our schedule.  I figured we didn’t have a snowball’s chance of placing in the large classes, especially since Mocha’s not had formal Showmanship squaring up training and it’s been 38 years since I last did Showmanship, but I thought it would be a good way to expose her to the arena and to competition before In-Hand Trail.  Um, well, despite her calling once, peeing, and being a little antsy, we got two fourth places (and I think a fifth, can’t remember now).

Trail ended up being pretty exciting.  The course was deceptively simple, with a gate, a mailbox, a water obstacle using a tarp, sidepassing a L, and walking a pole around a barrel.  The complicating factor was the transitions and space between obstacles.  Gate to mailbox was walk.  NBD.  Jog 20 feet to tarp.  Bit of a challenge.  Lope 25 feet to the L.  Now that was tight.  Even little short-coupled Miss Mocha found it tight.  Luckily, she’s sensitive enough that I could halt her right at the edge of the tarp (as shown in the pic) so we could pick up the lope, get in two-three strides, and stop right at the L.

This was the challenging obstacle.  Two barrels and an eight-foot piece of molding with attached handle.  You had to ride up to the side with the handle, pick it up, and walk around the barrel to replace it without allowing the molding to fall off of the barrel.  It helped that Miss Mocha seemed to have been watching the other horses doing the course and knew That Thing Is Not Supposed To Fall.  She watched it closely and we did well.  Namely, two blues, several thirds.

Then it was on to the Reining classes.  When I lined Mocha up to wait for the starting whistle, things narrowed down around me.  We launched into a lope and I kissed her up to a full gallop.  The first couple of strides, she was hesitant, then she dug in and went for broke.  As we sizzled around the first corner heading for the rollback, I felt my hat wobble.  Semiblah rollback, around at lightspeed for the second rollback, then the large fast circles.  Mocha was going for broke, thundering hard but steering well.  As we went by the gate, I flipped my hat off so I wouldn’t keep thinking about it.  G said he knew then that I was going for broke.  Which we did.  We flew around the large fasts, then checked for small slows, the flying change, and back to the large fasts, with another nice small slow, then on for the last build for a hard stop, backing up at least 20 feet, and spins.

About halfway through the first run, I started hyperventilating and gasping.  I think I’d been holding my breath until then.

Afterwards, the runner, who’s a barn rat from our barn, came up to us and said “Dayum.  You guys were smoking out there!”  I thanked her as I choked on my asthma inhaler.

Second run was much the same, except I bagged the hat from the beginning.  And kinda sorta remembered to breathe.  On the third run, Mocha bagged out of the spins.  She’d been a little off on the rollbacks, but she flat out objected to the last spins and sidepassed to the wall.  I didn’t push but took the DQ as I figured she had a reason–soreness or something–and I wouldn’t push it.

Later, I found that we’d been at the top of all three judges’ cards until the spins.  First one, I went five spins.  Second one, I went three.  Four was the correct number, and only four were allowed.  Oh well.

By this point it was nearly midnight.  DH and I thought we’d unsaddle her by the car, so as not to have to lug the saddle to the car.  Point of having a horse, right?

Well, uh, no.  She was convinced there were Horse Eating Monsters in the parking lot and she wasn’t going to have it.  So I took her into the barn, where she calmed down.  Fed her, put the Back on Track boots on, watered her (I’d watered her during the competition, during the Trail class breakdown–basically, took her back to the stall, dropped the bridle and let her drink).  Headed off to the motel, worrying that she’d colic or freak out about the hock boots.

In the morning, the main thing was that she was hungry.  And she Did. Not. Want. Botheration while she ate.  She was a little sore in her chest but the hocks were good.  We went on to pick up several more fourths and fifths, as well as a couple more thirds.  There’s the final ribbon pic.  Two firsts, five thirds, six fourths, and three fifths.

She was pretty funny when she got home.  Eager to go in the arena, she had to amble around for about ten minutes before she finally dropped and rolled.  Then she was ready to go back to the stall.

This post is long enough, I’ll write more about training and Pleasure later.


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