Tuesday, September 27, 2011

*Deep Breaths*


So after keeping my organization in limbo for approximately 5 months, the State, in its infinite wisdom, has "officially" decided to de-fund us for fiscal year 2012 as of September 15th. My last day at work is Friday. Nice notice, right?

I (and my co-workers) pretty much knew this was coming, but there was that glimmer of hope that everything would be ok and funding would come through. Not to be. I've been with that organization since it started, from the ground up, 7 years of blood and sweat and tears, wah wah woe is me.

I've sent out about 10 resumes in the last 3 weeks or so. I got my first rejection email this morning, for extra bonus awesome!

Anyway, I'll continue searching, obviously. I'll collect unemployment (which is about half of what I was making). Kyle and I are cutting back even more than we were before, and we will be ok for a little while. I'll get some time to decompress from this shitty limbo-state of uncertainty, wash some horse blankets, get the yard ready for winter, and of course lots of this:

Such a handsome head.

It's not all bad. Kyle says to focus on finding what will make me happy. I've heard the saying, "Do what you love, and the money will follow." It's a nice thought, but I'm so disillusioned with the economy in this State I don't know. I'm worried I'll end up taking something I hate because, um, we need dollars. Worse I won't even be able to find a job I hate that pays what I was making, and I'll end up working at Speedway. (Aside: If I have to work for 8 bucks an hour, I'd rather at least work around animals; a pet store or something. I'm actually really fascinated by animal nutrition and pet care, having owned just about anything with fur at one point or another, and I don't think it would be horrible.) The rejection letter I got? Says they received hundreds of resumes for this one position. It's tough out there.

Dark days.

Of course, leave it to Miles to be my bright light. He has been working so, so beautifully the last couple of weeks. Friday and Saturday I took him over cross rails for the first time in a month or so. We've both missed them and it sure injected more joy into our ride. Saturday I raised the rails up so the middle was just under 2 feet. I know, I know, we're CA-RAAAZY! It was fun to feel him actually use himself to jump though-thank goodness I had the presence of mind to grab mane the first couple of times. He's so adorably pleased with himself when he does a good job, too. Love my boy. How can any situation be all bad when I get to drive out to see this more often?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Thoroughbred Contains Multitudes


Oh Gurl...

Lookit Mah Baybee!!! He was winning!

So, we've framed the picture (William Vassar Photography), obviously. I love that his last win was on turf, over a mile, when he was 5 years old. Last to first, baby. He ran a few races after but never won.

And now?

Oh Hai! Whut? Nonono. "Masarin" is not Milez.

Lookit, I'm seery-ous. Milez don't run no more. Never has!

Milez Eats.

Still, every once and awhile....

Ok, so he's not really even galloping here-he's not a race horse anymore and seems just fine with that fact. His walk-canter transition is what I love about most about this video, not his speed. Still, he has the space enough to gallop or canter or trot or to do none of those things. Also, right now he is digging the ladies on both sides of his pasture. Luckily he seems to be respectful so far and only wishes to sniff noses over the fence, squeal, and then eat. In that order.

He may not have Masarin's speed any longer (or his physique, thank god, beautiful as it is), but he does have his heart. Our ride today was just lovely. It was probably a combination of perfect breezy weather, a recently raked arena, Durasole and Smart Flex Senior, which he's been on for a few weeks now, but it felt like...something else. He warmed up with sweeping walk strides on the buckle. His trot was straight (usually) and true, and he listened to my aids, moving out immediately. I promised him something and he gave me something in return. He's my partner, and I wouldn't have him any other way.

Still, I'd love to be able to time-travel to 6 years ago and meet Masarin who kicked ass in Golden Gate field. I'm willing to bet he's not so different from my boy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Head And Not The Heart-Novella Review

If you read horse blogs at all, and particularly if you read blogs about OTTBs, you've heard about Natalie Keller Reinert and her blog Retired Racehorse. Natalie is a wonderful combination of knowledgeable horsewoman and experienced rider of TBs both on and off the track, and she has a passion for my breed of choice that practically bleeds off her words. By now you can probably guess I loved her debut novella, The Head and not the Heart.

This e-book follows Alex, a 20-something gallop girl and aspiring trainer, during a particularly challenging time in her life. From the outside, everything looks wonderful; she's the lover of a very successful British trainer (named Alexander-yep, Alex and Alex) living in the heart of race country in Florida. My favorite part of the book is how Natalie creates this world for the reader-the weather, the stables, the people, the SCHEDULE (ugh, a schedule that a person in racing keeps would kill me dead), and of course, the horses. Only a person with first-hand knowledge of racing behind the scenes could write race horses like Natalie does-all of them, from the yearlings to the 2 and 3 year olds in race training to the broodmares to the foals to the retired stallions. It's beautiful and it's tragic, because anyone who knows horses knows without a doubt that they will hurt you. They will absolutely Break. Your. Heart.

I admit, I wasn't a huge fan of the title, but it's a theme that emerges again and again in the book, and after I finished the last page I see why Natalie used it. If you make horses your life, can you do so in a way that is necessary to be sane and successful in the business? Can you remain detached, keep these beasts at a distance, in order to protect yourself? Or, is the very thing that keeps people in horses-a passion and a yearning, to ride them, to train them, to care for them, to be with them all day everyday, the same thing that will destroy a person in the end? Not to mention the physical pain, the injuries (both to body and to pride), the constant dirt and grime, the 3 am emergencies, the 4:30 am wake up calls....are we all crazy?, she asks. Alex has her whole life ahead of her. Can she live it without horses and be happy?

I'm obviously not going to give THAT away, but I will say that Natalie does a masterful job of keeping us guessing until the very end. She also keeps the reader engaged throughout Alex's time in Florida, both in her home with Alexander and his training facility, as well as her travels to New York City with its restaurants, night-life, a riding stable (!) and finally to Aqueduct. I admit I loved her Florida setting so much I didn't want Alex to leave, but the writing is so strong that no matter where she is we are going right along with her, and I for one was happy to do so. Still, the scenes set in the barns and at the track are so engaging it's hard for any other environment to compare. Speaking as a horse person, that may not be an accident.

One of the things I found so interesting was Alex's relationship with Alexander. He is twice her age, and there is a fascinating dynamic between them because she is "just" a gallop girl and he is The Man in every way in the facility (a major in Women's Studies could deconstruct this whole thing much better than I). I love how Natalie doesn't shy away from the complexities of such an arrangement, describing both moments of bliss and times of awkwardness and pain between the two, not to mention the issues that come with being the lover of a man who is both older and more knowledgeable in the field you're BOTH working in. I couldn't get enough of their interactions with each other; every touch, every word spoken (and unspoken) resonated with me as true, and I've never had a relationship even remotely like theirs. That's good writing.

So Bravo, Natalie. I loved this debut of hers and highly recommend you skip tomorrow's Starbucks (or whatever) if money is an issue for you, as it is for me, and plunk down the 3 bucks to read The Head and not the Heart. Lose yourself for awhile in a novella centered around the world of horse racing, written by someone who knows it, loves it, and doesn't sugarcoat a thing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Warm It Up Kris!

I'm about to! Warm it up Kris-'cause that's what I was born to do!

Sorry...for whatever reason I have a plethora of random hip-hop lines (all from the 90's, sometimes 80's) in my brain, and they come out occasionally. This edition brought to you by Kris Kross. You're welcome.

This post is more for me than anything, and those lines of genius above really do relate, I promise. I rode Miles today and it was nice and cool, just perfect. He's still being fussy about bugs, which are basically non-existent at this point, so I was done indulging him. He was sprayed to the gills, he had his fly bonnet on-enough with the stomping and head swishing. I put him to work pretty quickly after mounting, with no lunging. He was sluggish and totally ADD. I thought, what the hell, I KNOW it takes this horse a long time to warm up some days, whether it's physically or mentally or both. So, I let him be less than forward (within reason). I let his head turn this way and that, as long as his body stayed on the rail. When he lowered his head and started listening, we'd do a circle. In the meantime, I focused on me-elbows, hands, heels, looking UP (something I think I've gotten bad about), shoulders, all of it.

Our first canter depart sucked hard-he swerved like a tool at a random object next to the arena we had passed 10 times that day already. I put him in a circle and we picked up the canter again, did a couple more circles, and went back to the trot.

Ahhhhh, and there was my boy. Finally forward, ready to work, connected to my hand, listening to my leg, all of it. I let him walk on a loose rein to give us both a break, and when I picked the contact up again he gave me a nice swinging walk (something that is very hard for him and that I haven't devoted nearly enough time to). I squeezed and there was the nice trot again-a little rushy at first, it became lovely and easy to post quite quickly (funny how that works). We did some circles and changes of direction, all while I avoided the very hard and very deep parts of the arena just to try to keep our awesome rhythm going, and it seemed to work.

All in all, considering this was our second real ride in awhile, I was a very, very happy girl. I like that even when he's being less than great to ride, he's SAFE, and that's the time I can use to work on my own issues (of which I have many). And what do you know, the better I ride, and the looser his muscles become, the better our ride as a whole becomes. Funny, that:)

He was SO adorable afterward too. I can tell when we've really connected sometimes by the way Miles interacts with me when I get off. He remains engaged and interested, instead of just glad to be done and go back to the barn.

I finally got to see Buck the movie this weekend, and one of his big lines (which you all have probably already heard) is that our horses are our mirrors. We don't always like what we see.

Dang if it isn't the very best feeling when you do, though.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Miles Vs. Yorkie

Wow! So that was...something!

Yesterday was a stunningly beautiful day, FINALLY. An intermittent brisk wind was blowing and it was in the 70's; absolutely perfect for riding. It had rained the night before, so every time the breeze died down the mosquitoes took full advantage, though luckily it still wasn't nearly as bad as it's been.

However, Miles has become SO sensitive to bugs in the arena he was still a little head-shaky and stompy. We hadn't ridden in a week and the wind was coming in strong gusts, so I dusted off the lunge line (!! We hadn't used this thing in a couple months:) and off we went to work. He was reasonably good, moving great, but a little spooky. Nothing horrid, so I got on after about 10 minutes.

We were just finishing our first warm up circle when a car pulls up and two dudes get out, along with a little Yorkie who I think is named Goose. I know these 2 guys are not horse people because I hear one of them say, laughing, "I don't think Goose has ever seen a horse before!" as the dog runs off and dude lights up a cigarette. Not that horse people don't smoke, but generally not near a frigging BARN, even if they were in the gravel parking lot.

ANYWAY, sweet lil' preshus Goose comes trotting straight for us. I should mention that Miles has been around allllllll kinds of dogs, large and small, and never bats an eye. However, this particular dog he gave the stink eye as soon as he lept out of the car. I should have dismounted right then. Still, I'm thinking, 4 pound dog, Miles likes dogs, what could happen? It was weird that he was so interested though-that should have told me something. So, Goose comes up to us and Miles lowers his head to sniff, being a perfect gentleman considering this dog approached with such bravado. All is well for about 2 seconds, until Goose decides to LUNGE at Miles face and yapyapyapyapyap. Miles does a gorgeous spin to the side (which I stay with!) and Goose runs off. Whew. Could have been worse. I figure the 2 dudes, who are laughing, will now leash the little effing monster and all will be well.

Come on, right? Again, I should have gotten off. But, we had just started and it was so gorgeous out that I start putting us to work, though Miles and I still keep an eye on the tiny terror as we trot the arena and Goose runs off into the field. Dudes stand there, calling Goose occasionally, and are being quite ignored.

Sigh. Goose is coming back-this time he is RUNNING at us, barking like crazy. I finally grow some balls and say, "You need to come and get this dog out of the arena before I get thrown." Goose reaches us and starts again with the bared teeth, yapping, leaping routine. Miles, all things considered, is being saintly-picture a cutting horse if the cow turned on the horse. He is spinning, leaping to the side, doing everything he can to hold himself together and still get away from the little bastard. I have NO idea what is taking the dudes so long to get their little shit because I'm trying to stay with my horse and stay calm and stay ON. Finally, Goose is scooped up and taken out, with a laugh and a "sorry". Sorry? Did they think what just happened was cute?! UGH.

Still after everything, it was really a hilarious experience. I looked at the arena and the tracks that Miles made in all his acrobatics and I was pretty impressed. I was happy that I stayed with him during all his athletic Hot Moves (tm) and never really came close to being unseated. I stayed loose, sat up, and grabbed mane. I'm proud of myself that I didn't clutch at the reins or freeze up. I'm SO proud that Miles didn't bolt or rear or buck or do anything other than try to get away from Mr. Goose while keeping his head and taking care of me.

After all the drama, I continued to work Miles for another 15 minutes or so and he was wonderful. We jumped a small cross rail and called it good. I called it real good.

If they ever start Dog Dodging as an equine sport, we are going to kick some ass:)