Sunday, September 30, 2007

That's Hot

Actually, I'm hot. I'll admit that I'm not bad for a woman who's pushing 45 like a British nanny, but that isn't what I'm talking about -- I'm literally broiling most of the time. At 41 my doctor told me I wasn't ovulating anymore and I got a first-class ticket on the Early Menopause Train. In the last six months my temperature gauge has gone on the fritz, stuck on high. I don't have what I would call hot flashes, they don't come on all of a sudden, it's more of a gradual thing and lasts for an hour or more, then I generally slide headlong right into freezing.

Anyone who says that riding isn't a physical sport has never been on a horse. I was an athlete most of my life and I hardly sweated at all; now I am making up for it. I don't smell bad (thankfully) but the wetness under my arms is quite disgusting, at least to me. Have you seen the commercials for the new "clinical strengh" deodorant for women? The person who wrote the copy for this ad is a fricking genius, the tagline at the end is: Because You're Hot. The best part is that the product actually works. Hallelujah.

Speaking of hot, last week marked the beginning of the new fall TV season. Guilty as charged: I love TV and I don't care who knows how many hours I watch a week. I don't watch soap operas, game shows, talk shows (except my boyfriend Jon Stewart) or reality shows (except The Amazing Race), so I don't feel bad about it at all.

Monday has always had a dearth of good TV, and no, I don't watch Heroes. I caught the series premiere of Journeyman and quite liked it. It takes place in San Francisco and it's always fun to feel connections to the places you see on the Magic Box. The acting was believable as were the special effects, which on a show like this could be a killer. I'll keep watching this one.

The season openers of both NCIS and Bones were good, these are old friends. I taped Reaper but I haven't watched it yet, anybody care to weigh in on that one?

I wasn't crazy about the Private Practice preview last season and the first episode didn't really toast my raisin bread either, but I'll give it a bit longer. Just like Joey outside of the Friends universe, it felt like a bit too much Addison for me to stomach. I somehow screwed up the DVR so I only taped the second half of Criminal Minds, but I think I can figure it out. With Mandy Patinkin leaving the cast I'm not sure I'll continue to watch or not. CSI:NY is also an old friend, but I've taped Bionic Woman and Life, so I may need to cull some Wednesday viewing. Bionic Woman is also being shown on Sci Fi, so that may give me a little breathing room. I'm also going to check out Pushing Daisies.

My other boyfriend Derek Shephard is also back, along with the rest of the docs on Grey's Anatomy. The season opener was a bit ponderous, and Izzie's storyline with the deer was stupid, but it saved itself in the last five minutes; although, seriously? There is no such thing as break up sex. If you break up with someone and the first thing that crosses your mind is you want to have hot sex with them, then you did not just break up with them. Doesn't matter, it's so beautiful when that boy smiles...

The original CSI solved the cliffhanger from last season with Sara. I won't give it away in case you haven't seen it yet and want to, but I was a little disappointed they didn't take the harder route. Does that give too much away? The Without A Trace premiere was also a little slow, but it will get interesting once they divulge that Sam is pregnant.

Big Shots was a nice surprise, I almost didn't tape it but I'm glad I did. Just seeing Dylan McDermott and Michael Vartan back on TV is worth it. Now, that's hot.

In Moonlight we have our first dud of the season, in my opinion. The male lead, a vampire, is charming and good-looking, but that couldn't make up for the bad acting/writing/special effects, I could only watch it for the first 15 minutes. Numb3rs started off with a bang, an enjoyable hour with Val Kilmer guest-starring.

I'm still watching Damages and Mad Men as well, both continue to dish out surprises both in plot line and in how good the acting is. Nip/Tuck starts at the end of October and I cannot wait to see how much they ratchet up the kink factor now that the good doctors are in LA. Speaking of LA, Californication on Showtime is also very good, very funny.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Dear Miss:

Wishing things were different in the past is just a well-dressed regret, but it sounds so much nicer so I'm going to stick with that.

I wish I could have seen you as a baby, those who did say you were adorable. There aren't even any pictures of you before you're full grown, which I can hardly believe, as many pictures as I've taken of you in the past nine months.

I wish I had started riding long ago, but I know it came along at just the right time, when I was listlessly floating in a sea of grief and failure. Thankfully I had some natural talent for it, or at least was told that and believed it, as my fragile state at the time would have cracked and crumbled if I didn't feel some success right away.

I wish your original owner hadn't treated you like a trophy, buying you expensive tack but spending very little time either on the ground or in the saddle.

I wish they hadn't waited 3 years to decide to give you back to the farm, as in that time you were idle and lonely. Yes, you were fed and turned out and shod and vaccinated, but without a job to do and without a special person to bond with.

I wish I had been better prepared at the moment when our lives intertwined. The extent of my riding history was a handful of trail rides in the last 20 years and six months of mostly regular lessons at the farm. I am still completely humbled and flabbergasted at the idea that my name even came up as a potential new owner for you when it became clear it was too expensive for the farm to keep you without any board coming in. You were the last baby of the farm's breeding legacy and it was absolutely out of the question that you leave the property. That day when Willow cautiously told me the story and asked if I wanted you as my own, I turned into an internally squealing 12 year-old -- Look at the pretty horsey! Then I watched you on the lunge line, the big floating trot gliding you around the ring, the correct lead every time on the bright canter and I thought, Jesus, this is a lot of horse for me. When you put green and green together you just get a deeper shade of green. But Willow promised to help us, and she has, she's so patient and I can see that she loves you, which counts for a lot.

I wish you didn't have so much pain; that's what is heartbreaking, to know that there is little I can do to help you other than follow the vet's suggestions.

I wish I could articulate the joy I feel just being near you. That soft nicker you make when I come around the corner of the barn and call your name -- Missy-mare -- and you rush over to the fence to greet me. The simple pleasure of sitting on the grass at your feet while you graze, you stepping carefully around me and nuzzling me gently to move over, as the best grass is always the grass I'm sitting on. The way your thick mane flops over half-way down your neck no matter how much I work on getting it to lay on the right side. The way you pick up your front feet at the walk, prancing proudly next to me even if we're just heading to the wash rack. The way your ears look like a mule's when I'm sitting on your back. How my body seems to fit with your's just right, like you're a shiny brown chesterfield.

While it has been difficult to get started on your back only to have long stretches where you need to rest and heal, I'm not ready to give up on you. We're partners, you and me, and when I look in your deep brown eyes I know you feel the same way.


Epilogue: I am grateful for all the advice that you all gave, and I want to make it clear the giddy 12 year-old did not make this decision. This horse was born and has spent her entire life at this farm, being looked after by the same staff and the same vets, so her entire history is known. There is no reason to believe she has any unknown underlying long-term problems, other than the cracked coffin bone. After 3 years idle, she's been under saddle barely 6 months, and we've done more work with her in that time than the previous owner did in the first 4 years of her life. D and I still want to get a horse more suited to a beginner so he can ride if he wants and I can always be assured of a mount (well, there's no guarantee that you'll always have a horse to ride, no matter how many horses you have, but you know what I mean). We'll keep assessing her as we go along, but we have just begun.

P.S. I made myself cry writing this post!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In Sickness and In Health

There is a reason I named my horse Mystere...she is still such a mystery to me. We were letting her rest another day or two last week after her last shoeing, she cracked the left front coffin bone when she was a 2 year-old and it always comes up a bit sore. I've been lunging her lightly and she was fine when I left her Sunday afternoon.

Monday afternoon I get a call from my trainer. Missy wasn't eating (a sure sign something is wrong) so they took her temperature and it was 105! A horse's temperature is normally between 99 and 101, so this was a big red flag. The vet came and checked her and didn't think it was colic, so she gave her a shot of banimine, which is basically horsey Tylenol and said to keep taking her temperature. She took some blood, which came back positive for a viral infection, so antibiotics weren't going to help. Her temperature has been fluctuating, but is still over 102, so we are continuing with the meds and just giving her hay, which is all she seems to want to eat.

When I went to see her she had those sad eyes that animals get when they aren't feeling well, and heat was radiating off of her, poor thing. The vet said she needs a week's recovery for every day she has a temperature. So, at this point, she'll be off for about a month. *sigh*

This happened the same day I found out that the client I had been working all the extra hours for (the home of Mr. Wart Hog), pulled the filing for their IPO. I knew this was going to happen, but still had to put in all those unpaid overtime hours, for nothing. To say I was upset that night was an understatement.

I haven't gone back to actually count, but I think I've ridden Missy 5 times since the first time in May. Every time we get her on schedule something else happens. She's had two major infections, cut herself badly twice (once requiring stiches and staples), and been lame 4 times. I don't want to give her back to the farm -- that was part of the deal we made, if things didn't work out I could give her back -- but I was very frustrated and worried. Worried she's got health issues that will keep cropping up, worried she's too much horse for me, on and on. I just can't imagine giving her up, I love her, but I need a horse that I can ride on a consistent basis as well.

I know this is status quo with horses, shit happens all the time. We even considered buying a cute little Paint mare, but they were asking too much for her. After a very sweet and encouraging email from my trainer in which she told me she would never have suggested I take Miss if she didn't think I could learn to ride her and that I had made great progress considering I started from scratch a little over a year ago, I came down from the ledge and decided to lease the mare I usually ride for lessons, Angel. At least for a little while, until I get more riding time under my belt and Miss has time to get back under saddle. She's young, and maybe being pushed into fairly rigorous training after being off for almost 3 years is still catching up with her.

Feel free to throw words of encouragement my way. Here are two pictures I took of her last weekend.

Looking fat and happy...

and from another angle, looking svelte and fabulous.

Friday, September 7, 2007


As if getting a black belt in Aikido weren't enough of an accomplishment for 2007, last weekend D became a certified advanced scuba diver. The desire to do this was sparked by our planned trip to St. Lucia in December, but it was the worst possible time for me to take the classes, what with working ridiculous hours and being sick the entire month. I'm perfectly fine with snorkeling, frankly, but I may reconsider, I'm not sure about the whole idea yet. I'll post some scuba pictures in another post.

After the final dive in Monterey we went to have a celebratory drink with D's dive partner, B, and one of the instructors. We ordered something to eat but B declined, saying she had "eaten enough cookies earlier to kill a horse". Of course, I couldn't let this go so I replied that it would take an awful lot of cookies to accomplish that, my horse seems to have the ability to put away countless cookies at one sitting. She asked what kind of horse I had. "She's a thoroughbred", I said. She got this look on her face that told me she thought that meant "purebred", so I set her straight on that point. Then she asked what kind of riding I did, Western or English. When I told her English, her got another puzzled look on her face and blurted out, "Who DOES that anymore?"

OK, now I'm confused. Her questions seem intelligent but she has no idea what she is talking about. I glance at D for some help and tell her it's quite popular, actually, especially in the part of the Bay Area where we live. The instructor asks what the difference is. She gives him a pat on the arm as if to say, boy are you dumb, and says with great confidence, "Both legs on one side, silly!"

We couldn't help it, D and I burst out laughing. M says in self-defense, no, that's sidesaddle, and we proceed to explain the difference (ever watched the Olympics?).

I felt a little bad for her, but she dug her own hole. As much of a beginner as I was when I started taking lessons last summer, even I knew more than she did. That's been one of the most surprising things to me, how little the average person knows about horses, or the things they think they know that are flat out wrong. I'm guilty as anyone else, I thought palomino was a breed and not a color, I had no earthly idea what a martingale or a surcingle were and didn't have a clue what the lifespan of a horse is. I have a client who is in his 40s who told me he's never seen a horse in person. How is that even possible? I guess if you lived your entire life in the city...that made me sad.

Anyway, when she said "sidesaddle" it conjured up all kinds of images in my head so I had to do some research and learn a little bit about it. Turns out there is a thriving sidesaddle community, both national and international and there are sidesaddle classes at many elite horse shows. (I've seen it with and without the space in between the two words, I'm not sure which one is correct.)

The image that popped in my head initially was of a woman dressed like this, performing at a renaissance fair.

I found many wonderful paintings and woodcuts of women riding side saddle, here's one of Jane Austen.

Our good friends at Wikipedia tell us that..."In Europe, the sidesaddle developed in part because cultural norms for the upper social classes dictated that it was unbecoming for a woman of apparent wealth or high social status to straddle a horse while riding. The practice was reinforced by folk beliefs suggesting that riding astride could destroy a girl's virginity, impair her ability to bear children, or provide a lady with an unnatural sexual stimulation. [Well, goodness we can't have that!] Riding sidesaddle was also practical, since long dresses were the required fashion. The earliest functional "sidesaddle" was credited to Anne of Bohemia (1366-1394). [I wonder if she was considered a Bohemian for doing this?] It was a chair- like affair where the woman sat sideways on the horse with her feet on a small footrest. The design made it difficult for a woman to both stay on and use the reins to control the horse, so the animal was usually led by another rider, usually male, and sitting astride. [A good way to keep a wandering woman under control.]

In the 1830s Jules Pellier invented a sidesaddle design with a second, lower pommel to the sidesaddle. In this design, still in use today, one pommel is nearly vertical, mounted approximately 10 degrees left of top dead center and curved gently to the right and up. The rider’s right leg goes around the top, or fixed pommel, which supports the right thigh of the rider when it is lying across the top center of the saddle. The lower right leg rests along the shoulder of the left (near) side of the horse and up against the second pommel (called the leaping head or leaping horn.) lies below the first on the left of the saddle. It is mounted about 20 degrees off the top of the saddle. This pommel is curved gently downward in order to curve over the top of the rider's left thigh, and is attached in a manner so that it could pivot slightly, to adjust to the individual rider. The rider places her left leg beneath this pommel, with the top of the thigh close or lightly touching it, and places her left foot in a single stirrup on that side.

Although that description is wonderful, I still couldn't really grasp what the saddle looked like until I saw this picture. Looks entirely too precarious to me. I have a hard enough time staying on riding "astride".

Then I read on and discovered that people actually JUMP OVER THINGS while riding sidesaddle, they even do cross country eventing. My velvet hat is off to these folks.

I would love to ride in a classic outfit like this some day though, I've always loved the look of formal riding attire.

I absolutely adore this replica Edwardian outfit -- gentile, feminine, classy -- can you see me riding Mystere dressed like this?

Speaking of Miss China, she's finally sound and we've been working hard. That's one of my many nicknames for her, created the day Willow asked her, "Are we going to have to bubble wrap you?" (to keep you from another mishap). I rode her last weekend, then twice during the week, and will be taking another lesson on her tomorrow afternoon. I am still giddy at the idea of riding my own horse.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Hat Trick

The Drum Corps International (DCI) championships that we went to in Pasadena earlier this month are on ESPN2 this coming Wednesday, if you want to check it out.

This is a good segueway to a post that I've had brewing for a while now, like a couple of years.

As a bit of history, I can't put it any better than our friend Wikipedia: "Classic drum and bugle corps are North American musical ensembles that descended from military bugle and drum units returning from World War I and succeeding wars. Traditionally, drum and bugle corps served as signaling units as early as before the American Civil War, with these signaling units having descended in some fashion from ancient drum and fife corps. With the advent of the radio, bugle signaling units became obsolete and surplus equipment was sold to veteran organizations (such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, two major organizers for classic drum corps). These organizations formed drum and bugle corps of civilians and veterans, and the corps performed in community events and local celebrations. Over time, rivalries between corps emerged and the competitive drum and bugle corps circuit evolved. Traditional drum and bugle corps consist of bell-front brass horns, field drums, a color guard and an honor guard.

Drum and bugle corps have often been mistaken for marching bands, since there is a similarity to both groups having horns and drums; and they are both essentially bands of musicians that march. The activities are different in organization (marching bands usually associate with high schools and colleges while drum corps are freestanding organizations), competition and performance (marching bands perform in the fall at football games, drum corps usually compete during the summer), and instrumentation (classic drum corps use only brass bugles and drums, marching bands incorporate woodwinds and other alternative instruments)."

My first husband marched in the very first champion of Drum Corps International in 1972, the Kingsmen from Anaheim, California. My current beloved marched in the winningest drum corps in modern history, the Blue Devils from Concord, California. I marched from 1976 to 1982, then taught on and off through 1989, so a good chunk of my formative years was spent in a corps uniform. My corps was small and competitively unsuccessful, but that didn't stop us from travelling thousands of miles each summer to attend the championships, wherever that might have been. My first DCI was in Denver in 1977, so it seemed like 30 years was a good time for some perspective on where things are today.

The bane of my existence during my marching years was the "shako", the traditional hat with a feather plume on the top that everyone, including the color guard, wore back in the old days. I had very long hair and had to wind it on top of my head then put the shako on, which created a sweaty, sticky ball of hair when I took it off. In keeping with their military roots, all modern drum corps to this day have uniforms that have military uniforms as their starting point.

Here is a picture from a site dedicated to European infantry and their attire.

Here's a picture of part of the Blue Devils' snare line in 1979 (my beloved D is the handsome one on the right).

Here is what Blue Devils' snare line looks like, almost 30 years later.

Yeah, not much different than Napolean's army. I think the main culprit is the hat. Some corps wear a hat that looks a bit like what the Three Musketeers wore in the movies, referred to as an "Aussie", but essentially the uniform has remained unchanged save for some minor changes in the cadet jacket.

That's for what is referred to as the corps proper: the drumline and hornline. The color guard, on the other hand, has run off the rails when it comes to their uniform. As I said before, back in the day the guard wore the same hat and cadet jacket as everyone else, and wore a skirt with some variation of a boot for the bottom half.

Here's a picture of the aforementioned Kingsmen from 1977. I was in the rifle line in my drum corps.

Here's a picture of the Cavaliers from last summer, an all-male corps from Illinois that I happen to really like, but seriously, does this make sense? The guard is dressed like Borg and the rest of the corps is dressed like D'Artagnan.

This year there were guards dressed as gypsies, horses (in brown multi-colored jumpsuits with long fake pony-tails), painters, you get the idea. Right now there is such a discrepancy between the two parts of the corps that I find it distracting. From a visual perspective, the corps that I enjoyed the most this year were the ones that had some correlation of their uniforms between the sections.

We can't go backwards, so going forward I think the activity needs to find some middle ground. Pull back with the guard costumes and make some changes to the corps proper uniform. As far as I'm concerned, the horse-related show would have been a lot more fun if the corps had been in cowboy-inspired outfits. At the very least, get rid of those damn shakos.

On My Way

I'm here and (finally) doing fine. Miss is good too, she's sound and full of pep, I'll be riding her tomorrow. I'm working on a real post and will hopefully get it up tomorrow.

Jenna! So glad to see you. I hope you are well.