27 December 2014

Solely instinct? Wrong.

     I sometimes meet people who don't believe that  an animal can feel any emotion other than fear. They don't believe that an animal can think, or reason, or dream.They don't believe that animals really have lives and thoughts and worlds of their own.

    This is a hangover from the Descartian philosophy. Descarte was convinced-and pontificated-that animals were merely animated machines. They were incapable of emotions like love, hatred, fear, or physiological ones such as hunger, pain, or cold. He demonstrated this to people who disagreed with him (even back then there were enlightened folks) by nailing a living dog to a gate, and then explaining its anguished screams as merely labored exhalations caused by the unnatural, head down position of the dog.

     This philosophy was by no means unusual. Pope Pius number I don't know which made it 'law' that  animals didn't go to heaven because they had no souls. (He was also the pope that made it law that popes were infallible. Talk about circuitous reasoning!)

     This decree was merely the capstone of a belief that was almost universal as well as ancient. Many people believed otherwise, such as the Native Americans and Buddhists, but in general, "advanced' societies bought into the idea that animals could be treated inhumanely.   It was the philosophy that allowed humans to treat animals with the utmost cruelty, neglect, and maltreatment. The horse that was whipped to pull a much too heavy load was not incapable of the work, it was merely trying to escape the (probably less painful) sting of the whip or  just  lazy (interestingly, a undesirable characteristic, such as laziness or meanness, was fully attributed to the animal.  The Puritans would hang a horse along with it's criminal master, punishing it for being an accessory to the crime.) It was no different than the use one gave a tool, like a hammer. Once it broke, dispose of it. (as an aside, I cheer the current Pope, Francis, for stating that animals do too go to heaven.)

   This dogma, if you will, was so pervasive that scientists used it to justify painful experiments on animals AND in some cases, fellow humans. An especially thick headed refusal to use common sense is the practice of circumcising male human infants without benefit of a topical painkiller.

     In the US, at least, things have and continue to change, but slowly. The arena of animal experimentation is an especially contentious one. It's impossible to create a new drug without experimentation, but it is morally, ethically and illegal to test new medical procedures and medications on humans (although there are many humans I think would be ideally suited to experimenting on, just to punish them...but there you are. That's the problem.)

     Scientific experiments sometimes cause death, and courts (not to mention the families of people being experimented on) don't look kindly on such results.

    So they use animals, that have no civil rights.  Scientists and researchers who can't be bothered to properly sedate or anaesthetize an animal justify it by saying that such medication may skew the results. I suspect it truly is because such work costs more money, or puts the researcher in danger of being bitten, or for so many other reasons. Oh dear.   I won't go any further into this realm, I could go for days.

   Researchers merely put scientific jargon in Descartes mouth. They called an animals actions 'instinct', and insisted that animals were wholly instinctive animals. The mothering of a baby, feeding it, teaching it to hunt or flee from a predator, establishing a relationship with another herd member-these and other actions were merely instinctive acts. The animal didn't really love its young. The animal didn't really prefer the company of another herdmember.  They insist that the dog at your feet is incapable of anything but an instinctive drive to coerce you into feeding, grooming and housing it. They don't mention that living with apes is certainly not natural, and dogs shouldn't have such instincts that allow it to do so.

    This not to say that animals aren't instinctive. They most definitely are. Many of their actions ARE due to instinct. But they aren't solely instinctive creatures. 

   Hypocritically, they wholeheartedly agree that a human infant exhibits instincts: the sucking reflex is the very first one to kick in. But infant humans have other instincts less well known, because we no longer live on the African savannah. For instance, the reason babies used to be slapped upon birth was to get it to breathe. Somewhere in our past, we had an aquatic lifestyle, because infants instinctively don't breathe when they first exit the birth canal.  Some cultures take advantage of this by having women give birth in water, depending on the infant to hold its breath until it is brought to the waters surface to take a deep breath. In this same vein, infant humans also instinctively swim, and retain that ability to swim, even underwater, until the age of six months or so.
    Yet no one claims that human infants, creatures that really DO operate solely on instinct for several months, don't 'feel emotions'.

   I guess they also believe that humans are somehow not animals.

   You and I know differently. You know that animals think, reason, feel. I know this because you wouldn't be reading a blog about an animal you're crazy about.

   You know your horse has the same gamut of emotion and feelings you do. That's not to say that horses think the same way you do. No, a horse thinks like a horse. He values horse things.

The sin that animal behaviorists were taught for years to avoid was that of 'anthropomorphizing'. To anthropomorphize was to 'attribute human values to the actions or reactions of an animal."
The concept was, animals couldn't be tested to find out if they really thought, emoted, or dreamed, therefore, they did not.  It didn't matter that they were unable or unwilling to learn to speak their study animal's language. The guinea pig couldn't say 'I am hurting', therefore, the scientist attibuted it to the animal being incapable of feeling pain.

    The tests were created, monitored and scored by humans. Thus, they were biased.  Because a mouse can't read the arrow that pointed to the maze exit, it meant the mouse was stupid. Animals refuse to learn their ABC's.  Obviously that means they are stupid.

   Well, that is so much bullshit, too, and you've seen it. No, my cat may not ever wonder where in the world am I going to find the money to feed her. She doesn't think that way. She is incapable of understanding money, or economics, or being paid by someone else to do work, or going to the feed store to purchase food, or paying the utilities so we all can sleep in a nice warm house. None of these things are within her mind, or even her capacity to understand. What she DOES understand is that I am the Filler of the Bowl. What she does understand, and know, is that she must, every time she feels a hunger pang, come and rub up against my leg, or sit and stare at me, until I fill the bowl for her. Where it comes from she doesn't know, or care.
    And she is, too, capable of loving me, without the impetus of hunger to tell me so.

   Researchers who marginalized scientists for anthropomorphizing had, apparently, never  thought that animals were just as capable of doing it to us. They apparently had never loved a pet. They did not want to believe that a dog was capable of caninomorphizing (meaning, attributing canid values to a human). Yet it was in front of their very eyes. Conducting an experiment to conclude that a dog is most definitely capable of attributing canine values to a human is easy to conduct. Have the owner, a stranger to you, give his equally strange to you dog a juicy raw bone, covered with raw meat. Now try to take that bone away from the dog. What happens? You get a snap and a growl if you're lucky, and a full out bite/attack if you're not. Why? Do you want that nasty, raw bone? Hell, no. But the DOG values it, very much so. He knows you want it and will try to take it from him because he is caninomorphizing-attributing HIS canine values (that of the bone) to YOU, the human.

    Why is this not factored into the theorizing that an animal has the full suite of emotions and feelings that we do?

    Because it's inconvenient. 

    Because believing that a dog is in incapable of love, doesn't want to be free to move around where and when he will, makes it easier to do things to it-like keep it chained in the backyard to a tree.

    Because it's easier to think that the monkey in the cage is shrieking because it wants food rather than because it is insane from being caged.

          It makes it easier to put a severe bit in the mouth of a horse rather than try and work with the animal to get it to do what you want. 

    Yes, most animals are incapable of passing tests that an average three year old human can ace.

     Yet the folks who insist animals cannot think do not see the proof that they DO, despite it being right in front of their eyes.

     How 'natural' is it for a cow to live in a barn, and allow a machine to be placed on its milk distended udder? How natural is it for a horse to willingly enter a claustrophobic box that moves? Or to allow a man to put metal in its mouth, get on its back and ask it to chase a cow? How natural is it for a dog to allow itself to be dressed in dolly clothes and carried about in a purse?

    It's not. But they allow it. Only by being able to think, and reason, and learn that such actions, while odd, don't hurt it, and usually are followed by other, nicer things like eating, petting, etc. And most of our companion animals actually do things that are unnatural because they LIKE it. I know horses that adore jumping. I know dogs who would rather go for a ride in the car than eat. My neighbor had a chicken that was raised by ducks, and believed it was a duck, and couldn't understand how it just wasn't able to float atop the water.

    To the researchers who insist animals cannot think, reason or emote, I give this challenge. Lets see a more balanced and unbiased experiment.

    Let's have the researcher go out onto the prairie with a domesticated horse. Somewhere in the vastness is a body of water. All about him is grassland-no trees, no rocks, not a bit of civilization. It's high summer or deep winter.

    We want the researcher in the exact same condition as the horses. Naked. Shoeless. Carrying nothing-no bottles of water, no food, no tools, no weapons,  no shelter. He is in the exact same condition he was in at birth.
    To be a true scientist, in order to truly dismiss the concept that animals can't think, he must be exactly the same physical condition as the horses. No, he cannot ride the horse. No he cannot kill the horse and eat it.  No, he must subject himself to the exact same conditions the horse is in, in order to truly see who is intelligent, who can think and make decisions.

   Leave the man and the horse out there for two weeks.

   Who do you think is going to survive?


21 December 2014

Dubious accomplishments and unearned fame

     I don't have a competitive bone in my body.

     Even as a kid, if someone taunted me with "I'm better than you are.", I shrugged it off with a 'eh, whatever'.

    So I've never been involved in competitive sports. I just don't see the point of grownups chasing after a ball. Individual sports, i.e. downhill skiing, or running marathons, or just about anything done on the back of a horse, yes, I get that. I do understand the desire to improve one's own score, or performance, etc. I do understand competing against one's self, against the body you were born with.

    I find it reprehensible that football/baseball/basketball players get paid MILLIONS of dollars to run about in tight fitting(in the case of football players only) (ooh la la.....!) uniforms, chasing a ball, and thousands of scientists who actually provide a service to the betterment of humanity get nothing.

    Most of that is because men rule the world. They really do. There's a T shirt out there that said, "Imagine a world without men. A bunch of fat, happy women and no crime."

   That's unfair, because I adore men, I prefer their company, and I''m married to one whom I love to a distraction. But it is also only fair that I do say it, because men are the competitors. They love their sports. They are the hunters, the chasers, the aggressors, the CEO's who think it's just fine and dandy that women are paid much less than men for the same job. Men start wars. They die in them, but millions of women and children die, too.

   But I digress. No matter if I like it or not, professional gladiators get paid millions. I must admit, too, that when I watch a pro football game, when a team is hot, it's because they're working as a team, and stars who excel at what they do. Football is a lot like war, and I understand the tactics, the strategy, and I do like to see a team coalesce and work as one unit. But actually play football? I once was forced into a game of touch football. Someone very stupidly threw the ball at me. I knew I was supposed to catch it and then run with it for the end zone. However, I caught the ball with my nose.  That's the last time I tried THAT shit.

    It's the lower tier of 'competitor' that I just do not get. These are the folks...and again, it's usually men...who are obviously not NFL material, so try to make their fame and fortune with more esoteric, weird shit. By which I mean, things like 'hot dog eating contests'.  Or any 'competition' where the idea is to consume a certain amount or number of food items in a very short amount of time. These folks practise for this. The contest itself pits numbers of  men with a plate piled high with the item, (let's keep with hot dogs) and the man with the stop watch. Ready, set, go-and the competitors start gobbling as fast as they can. Some even have helpers, shoving the food into the man's mouth. Just the idea of watching such a display of what can only be termed competitive gluttony makes me ill. The time period is fairly short and the winner stands in glory, face and hair full of food particles, joyously proclaiming his feat. He's eaten sixty hot dogs in two minutes flat. Woo hoo. The rule is, too, that he must keep it down. No fair going and upchucking afterwards.

    I don't get this. What, precisely, have they accomplished? The demonstration that they can ingest an obscene number of hot dogs without chewing? That they can keep that many hot dogs in their stomach? Pfft. The Native Americans, in the 1800's, were known to being able to eat five pounds of meat in a sitting. But they, one, lived a life where they didn't routinely eat every single day,  two, had chased down and killed the bison themselves, three, weren't racing the clock, and four, didn't boast about their abilities or choose the one who could eat the most as their leader. Food was a means of survival, not a way of gaining notoriety or status.

     Then there are folks who are even lower on the achievement scale. Their claims to fame are vague and vacuous.

     Right now, it's Christmas season, meaning the TV is replete with ads for stuff you don't need to present as Christmas gifts. One of those is the perennial "clapper'. This is a little gadget that you attach to a lamp and then, clap twice and the lamp turns on or off.  You only see this gadget for sale at this time of year. I don't have one, but have seen one in action, and okay, it works, but...big deal. The thing that perplexes me is this year, it's being advertised by a rather fatuous looking fellow who appears as if he's a used vacuum cleaner salesman in real life. He's not manly or masculine. He's obviously not an athlete.  He's dressed in a suit and tie. His claim to fame is, quote  Man's Name, "World Class Clapper" "721 claps per minute". The ad starts with him clapping at a high rate of speed, and then he shows  you that YOU don't need to be a World Class Clapper, no, you only need to clap twice to turn on a lamp.

    Seriously?? I mean, REALLY? There's a contest for being able to clap? Does one actually win something? How does one time that sort of thing? Or count the number of claps? Or, to be brutally honest, why? Did he wake up one day and think, I can't run, I'm too short for basketball, I'd be squished by a linebacker, I think I'll work to become the fastest clapper in the world."

    I bet my boots he's single. And has been for a very long time. (maybe even lives with his mommy). Can you imagine going on a date with the guy? "Hi, I'm a nurse, what do you do for a living?" "Well, I practise clapping." Or worse, "Dad, this is my fiance. He's a world class clapper."
If, girls, you do bring home someone of this sort, be prepared-you're going to have to work two jobs just to keep yourselves fed. I know of no realm of work, I have never seen a help wanted ad looking for someone who can clap that fast. Or at all.

    There's even lower a level of asinine accomplishments.When I was a kid, 'variety shows' were standard 'family fare' on the television. Usually shown on Saturday and Sunday nights, these shows were hangovers from the vaudeville shows of the 30's and 40's. Usually hosted by a washed up and aging former Catskills singer/stand up comedian, a variety show had just that: a variety of acts. Usually there was a 'big dance number', with lots of girls dancing in gaudy costumes; a singer; a comedian or comedy act; and almost always, something from the circus days. This last often consisted of a man or woman doing a magic act (cutting a pretty girl in half), or juggling torches or knives, or (and this I always thought was weird)-a guy spinning plates on sticks. Not just one stick, many sticks. He'd run frenetically back and forth across the stage, balancing dozens of spinning plates on sticks. The act was always accompanied by a fast paced tune that is running in my head as I speak and I've not the faintest idea who composed it.

    Even as a kid, I was less than impressed. I just didn't see the point.  I didn't find it interesting, or amazing, nor did I feel any aspiration to do the guy on the stage one better. I never thought, I can do that. And I wondered, did this guy really take himself seriously? Did he plan out his day: 8 AM. Spin plates. 9 AM sweep up plates. 10 AM. Spin plates. Noon: eat. (on paper plates, I'm betting).

   But apparently, to this day, there are people who DO. In fact, it's gotten worse. These days, You Tube has taken the place of the Sunday night variety show, with even less monetary reward for what are supremely stupid stunts. It's become "Hey, hold my beer and watch this" Night on the Internet. I've seen videos of a guy who stuck a lighted Roman candle firework in his asshole. Guys attempting to jump their quads over burning firepits. One guy had himself videoed with a live tarantula and a snake erupting from his mouth.  (if he comes down with a good case of salmonella, he can only blame himself.)
     There was something just recently in the news about a man who was in a live cockroach eating contest. Oh, no, I am NOT making this up. I don't remotely have that type of imagination. The winner ate an unremembered number of live cockroaches. Just the idea of touching a cockroach makes me retch. This guy ate them alive.
And died. Yup. He vomited up the cockroaches, choked on them and died.

    Which won him the most dubious accomplishment of all: a Darwin Award.

    Winning a Darwin's Award is a true accomplishment. Most Awards are posthumous. You usually only win one by doing something so fundamentally stupid, so incredibly ridiculous,  that you die in the process. You've cleansed the gene pool of your own volition.

    That, in my mind, is an accomplishment of the best sort.

20 December 2014

Maddening computer glitches

     Despite coming from the shop, polished, spiffed up and vaccumed inside and out, with the assurances of the geeks saying she all better, my computer ain't.

   I had the same issue today. Turn on the computer (a desktop PC). It beeps once and hangs up at the mother board logo page. No response to any peripheral (i.e. keyboard, mouse). Nix, nein, nada.  Hard shut down (meaning holding the power button in rather than going through windows 7 shutdown because, well, I don't GET the windows screen.) This is not a good thing, it effs up the 'registry', as I've been told.
     I have to start and stop it several times until it 'catches'. I haven't the damnedest idea what is wrong. I've gone surfing from my tablet and found a  thousand different 'fixes', most of them entailing more expertise than I will ever have, and usually in a lingo I will never understand. For instance, "defragilate the goomber switch, cycle it using PCII protocols, making SURE you don't ground the hevertine and then it should work." What the eff?
For me, a decidedly unsophisticated, non-technological biologist, I think I'd have just as much luck burning incense and sacrificing a goat to the PC demons. 

    (Now I understand the frustration non-horsey people feel when a bunch of us horsepeople start talking in our lovely if exclusive and archaic Horseish)

   What it ultimately means is no one has an effing clue. So I am probably going to have to fix it the  way I learned to fix tanks in the Army: Keep throwing parts at it until it stops being broke. But that gets expensive, especially when it's me, not Sugar, buying the parts.

   Honestly, were I not so insistent on blogging and writing in general, I could do very well with just a tablet. I use my computer mostly for surfing the web on topics that interest me, and email.

   But tablets are murderous on your wrists and eyes if you want to type. I love my sprawling QWERTY keyboard and my big ol monitor. And my muse is a bitch...she's been especially active, perching on my shoulder and murmuring topics that must be blogged immediately, knowing full well that my computer is deadlined.

   OK. I guess I could handwrite it. But my penmanship was never very good, and that was in the days when I had a shoulder that would allow me to write. They're shot now, and I don't write at all, if I can help it. 

   No, I won't use my husband's. It's not MINE, you know?

   It's also frustrating that the thing was in the shop for several days, the geek who worked on it went by a check sheet, and mentioned, "only boots up after several tries."
Well DUH? that's what I took in for in the FIRST place.  And, "runs slowly". Hello? Didn't you try to fix that?

  Oh, man. This is frustrating.
Couple that with the fact that Blogger still refuses you to make comments on this blog.

   So if you comment, please send it to me via email (if you can) and I'll try to respond.

19 December 2014

My computer loses her mind.

I've been offline for about a week.

     My desktop computer had a mental breakdown. It's a 'homebuilt'. I didn't build it, of course, but I had it built by a geek. It's worked fairly well, but we had a tremendous windstorm last week. I was too stupid to not work on it during the storm. Two power surges, both so fast I had absolutely no time to react, blew her mind away.

     So she went to the Geek Squad repair shop. Now she's home, and I"m working to restore all the changes I made to Microsofts idiotic platform. Many aren't so easy to fix...for instance, now I find little check boxes next to desktop icons. What in the eff is this? Microsofts infuriating insistence on changing things for the sole purpose of change is driving me right around the bend. But what else is there? Nothing. The one thing Microsoft does best is make it ever more difficult to do even the smallest of changes. Their corporate mission statement must be, never let the customer think he's anything more than a moron.  Microsoft's idea of intelligent organization...well, it doesn't exist. If Microsoft ran the telephone system, when I wanted to call my dentist to schedule an appointment, I'd have to buy a raffle ticket first. That's where they'd keep the dentist's phone number, under Purchase. (NOT raffle, not dentist, not appointment, not ticket) The two are completely unrelated to each other, but...that's what Microsoft does. Hides even the simplest of functions under arcane names and even more unintelligible procedures.  The "Start" button to shut off one's machine is absolutely the classic example of that.

     While my computer was in the shop, I learned that thousands of  Word Press bloggers had been hacked.
      Go figure. WP spent millions of dollars and a year 'improving' (meaning infantilizing) their blog editing software, pissing off thousands of loyal Pressers, refusing to listen to the thousands of agonized pleas to return to the original, well working software. Yet their vaunted software engineers had neglected to notice a huge opening in their security software, allowing the invasion by hackers in the former Soviet Union. I wonder how they handle security in their offices? A big neon sign says "This way to the WP company safe. Combination is printed in big letters on the door."

     Worse, they're blaming the blogger. "If you hadn't done this update to an arcane and unintelligible program in WP, the hijacking of your blog is your fault." Not once did WP ever make me aware of one, the need for an update, two, the capacity or expertise to accomplish it, and three, the tools with which to do an update. But that means nothing to WP. Once again, WP is dodging responsibility, dismissing their customers (many of whom paid a bunch of money to supposedly secure their own domain) as whiners, and neglecting even the most basic steps of internet security.

     Which is, again, why I'm glad I moved here to Google. Blogger is clunky and doesn't work well. I have to take half a dozen steps just to get my dashboard to appear, and I still cannot figure out why it won't allow people to comment.
But so far it seems to be fairly secure against evil slimemold shitheads from hacking into it.

08 December 2014

My Non Horsey Husband makes a horsey joke

I've been utterly swamped with 'life', so it's been a while since I've blogged.

However, I'm healing a foot and have to be off it for several weeks. This will give me a chance to work on Horse Mad.

The other day, my beloved but utterly horse averse husband made up a joke on the spur of the moment. Here it is:

A farmer insisted on using a draft horse to plow one of his garden plots.

One day a woman stopped to watch. Her young daughter had stars in her eyes at the sight of the horse.

The woman asked the farmer, " can my little girl sit on your horse?"

What do you think the farmer said?

"Sure. Perch 'er on the Percheron."

15 November 2014

Success at the sitting trot

    There are days when you believe that no matter how hard you try, you just don't GET it.

    I cannot remember the number of times I've had an instructor tell me to go through a series of steps in order to do something else(i.e. "pick up the outside rein, cue with your inside calf, sit back, sit forward, etc).  I try to follow her 'orders',  yet don't believe I've managed. Sometimes the horse obeys, and sometimes..most of the time..he does not. I try and try and when I finally DO get the desired result, the instructor (who has a better eye for another rider's performance then I will ever achieve) says, YES!

   "Did you feel that?" I am asked. 

   No. I honestly don't  know how I did it. It's dumb luck. It's probably why I don't have much success with riding, in that I'm inconsistent. But I don't usually admit it, guaranteeing failure.

    I must admit that the woman I've taken a few lessons from in the last two years is very good. With her, I'm not afraid to say "No, I've no bloody clue what I did or how I did it." .She's good with that, and tries different things, until I find something that does work, for instance, doing a half halt.

   I end up feeling frustrated and at the same time, humbled by my horse's patience with me. Every time I've dismounted from a lesson, I apologize to Raven.
He is so patient with me. He's a gentle but insistent taskmaster. He won't do something unless I ask it correctly. No matter how badly I fumble around on his back, he still has that lovely glint in his eye that says he loves me.

   It explains why I don't take that many lessons. I don't even pretend to believe I know more than the instructor. I certainly don't know more than the horse. I'm pretty stupid, actually, and sometimes wonder if I have any business being atop a horse.

   But I love them, and I want to ride. So for the last two years (yes), I've been working on me. I've taken a few lessons, more out of a sense of obligation to the instructors, because I don't believe lessons do any good. For me, at least.

    This is not hubris, or arrogance. I know damned well I DON'T know better than the instructor. I know my limitations.  The hard drive in my head is is full (and always thinking of things other than riding) and I find it hard to follow more than one order at a time. 

     I've always, always been the type of person who has to learn by doing. I'm terrible at following written instructions, especially complex, multi-stepped ones.  I even have to break recipes down into single steps. Being told to do something when I'm attempting to do something else is even less helpful.  I know that is ME. It takes a great deal of experience and a talent to be a riding instructor. I don't know how they do it.

    Having learned how I learn, virtually all of  my riding the last two years has been done bareback, and without a trainer. I want to be able to feel the horse. I want to hear myself. I want to find that balance, that relaxation, that everyone else seems to summon without effort.

  Because riding IS an effort. Non-horsey folk think that horse riding is merely a matter of sitting in an expensive saddle and saying 'giddyup'. You and I know much better. It's physical work. It's equal parts athleticism and art.  Coming to riding (NOT horses, just riding them) late in life, I don't have that ability to absorb and process the physiological feedback that young children seem to possess in abundance. I'm old. I'm broken in several spots. I am utterly convinced of my vulnerability and mortality.

   I can't say, either, that riding bareback at a walk is the most exciting thing I've ever done atop a horse. (THAT was when a neighbor's western saddled Morgan gelding ran away with me, and I enjoyed every bit of it, hanging onto the saddle horn the entire furiously paced trip).

     Going back to the basics has taught me something I cannot adequately describe. I can quiet my mind, now, and listen to what Raven's body is saying. I'm very right sided (and right handed) and have to force myself to listen with both sides of me, but riding bareback at a walk has taught me balance without reins, and relaxation.
When I mount, when we first walk off, I drop the reins and just let Raven drop his head and walk out. Only when I'm comfortable and feel secure will I pick up the reins.

   Today was sunny but bitterly cold. I hadn't planned on going to the barn, but Sue called me...did I want to ride?

   I bundled up in layers and met her. I'm glad we did. Being the only ones foolish enough to brave the sub freezing temperatures, we had the arena to ourselves.

   I usually ride Raven first, bareback, to warm him up. Then I'll dismount and Sue saddles him, and makes him work. So it was today.

   After fifteen minutes or so, Sue asked, did I want to try trotting?

  The last time I tried trotting, bareback, I failed miserably. I quit when I realized I was bouncing right off his back.
 But it's been six months or more. Let's put him on a lunge line and try it.

   To cut to the chase, it was...fantastic. I finally feel as if my two years of "work' has paid off. Holding onto a clump of mane, one handed, I rode a sitting trot. It was...well, it was a revelation. When I felt myself beginning to fall sideways, instead of tightening up and bending forward,  I instinctively relaxed...and leaned back.

   Voila a'!!! I was sitting his fast trot. I was SITTING HIS TROT. Bareback.!!

   Sue was as ecstatic as I was. She told me later, "I knew right away when you got it, it was all over your face." I was hyped. I'd done the right thing instinctively, not having to THINK 'relax', 'lean back", straighten up. I was ramrod straight. I was relaxed, balanced, I was sitting the trot. I'd done it without thinking. I'd LEARNED.

   Keeping him on the lunge line helped. Sue kept him in frame, which helped enormously. When he was carrying himself, stepping underneath himself, the trot felt effortless.

  Oh my gosh. THIS is how it's supposed to feel. This is the breakthrough. I'm not afraid. I trust Raven, I trust Sue...I trust myself.

  I know most of you, my readers, have been riding for years, and probably don't even remember the moment when you discovered you could actually do something more than a walk on a horse.

   For me, it was today.

   I hope I don't backslide, but I probably will. It's inevitable, but...I did it once. I can do it again. Because now I know what to do  and how to do it. Raven taught me. I taught me.

    As an aside, Sue had her seminal moment, too. She mounted a happy, warmed up Raven and achieved something she's been working towards, too. A passage.
Oh my gosh, Raven was gorgeous. What a lovely passage. I could barely keep from whooping in excitement when I saw them passaging across the arena. My gosh, Sue, you missed it, you can't possibly believe how good you two look.

   "Oh yes, I can" she said, with the same stars in her eyes that I'd had earlier,'you can't believe how fantastic it feels."

   Yes I can.  We are miles apart in levels of ability, but yes, I can.

06 November 2014

The trouble with feet.

     Raven has been in the New Barn for two months or so. Within a week of arrival, he'd torn out the electric fence in his paddock during a fracas with the geldings in the paddock next to his; somehow knocked out a couple fence boards; and unfortunately, strained a ligament in his left fore while acting Big Stud For The Girl Next Door.

     It took a few weeks of confinement to the small turnout pen off his stall and an injection in order for it to heal. But he did heal. So we began to ride, only to discover a new issue: his hind feet are crumbling.

Arrrghhhhhhhhhhh. It's a very bad feeling to see the farrier pull a shoe and part of the hoof falls off.

This comes from one or several of factors: Our wet, wet climate, genetics (to a degree), nutrition, and shoeing.
    In my opinion, it's a combination of 1 and 4. I know Raven's breeding. He's 1/2 Trakehner, 1/2 Thoroughbred. He has virtually no white anywhere on him-just a spot on his lip and a faint star, just a scattering of white hairs that vanish under a winter coat.

     I know what he's been eating for two years. We have never stinted on the best for him. In fact, Sue moved him from Bourbon Stables after the owner decided to save a few bucks (and still charge the same money) by going cheap on feed.  Raven went from locally grown orchard grass and whole oats to the equine equivalent of Doreetohs and Fruit Loups.  (sic) (I misspell purposefully in order to keep the advertisers from hitting you and me with ads.)

Our wet climate keeps the feet wet. Farrier number 1 warned us to keep Raven's  feet as dry as possible. But there's only so much you can do when you live in a gigantic car wash. You don't want to keep him in a stall 24/7. That drives them insane. And kills them.

    Because Sue's former farrier has been unable to work because of his wrists and back, she had to find a new one. After doing a lot of culling, she hired Matt.

     Despite my not being a farrier, I always wondered about how the last farrier shod Raven. He'd always had to build up one of the hind feet with a bit of epoxy, but now it'd gotten much worse.

    In such a small field of work, every farrier knows every other farrier in the region. So Matt was very circumspect in his appraisal of why the hooves are crumbling. He didn't say so, but I know he believes the former farrier was partially to blame. Nor did he imply it in order to keep a new client. He was late to the barn because his prior appointment, one for four horses, was suddenly doubled to eight when 'everyone realized the farrier was there and would you please work on my horse?" I can't blame him for saying yes.


   The discussion between the three of us touched on how Raven had been shod before Matt got the job. Maybe the first farrier didn't allow the heels to adequately expand. Maybe he put too much pressure on the sides. I don't know. But now we have about a year of work to get his feet to grow out. Matt built up the hooves with epoxy and gave me a recipe for goop to put on his hooves to keep them dry, because if 'he stands around in the mud, that epoxy is going to come right out."

    Yes. The recipe is: Mix Venice turpentine and iodine in a 60:40 ratio. For us in the US, that's a cup of turpentine to 5.5 ounces of iodine.

Apply to the soles and on the outside of the hoof, no higher than the nails. Do NOT get it anywhere near the coronary band, as it will burn the tissue. Venice turpentine is made of larch tree resin. Be careful when shopping for it. It's different than the more readily available turpentine used by painters. Venice turpentine is an astringent, and the iodine is to kill bacteria that every horse steps in every single moment of his life. Try not to get it on the frog. Apply about three times a week. (this last is for Raven's case.)

    It could have been worse. Sue doesn't vanity clip him. Meaning, she leaves his whiskers on and never, ever trims his pasterns.

     Some people think that cowlick of hair coming off the back of his pastern is unsightly, and trim it off. Yes, it makes for a 'cleaner, prettier' leg, but that cowlick serves a very important purpose...like a rain chain, it wicks water away from the hoof.

     Extrapolating this in my biologists mind, I wonder if draft horse breeders didn't understand this when they set about breeding draft horses. One can't think of Clydesdales, Shires, and even Friesians without thinking of their 'feathers' (extremely long haired pasterns)

    Sue is upset about it, but I try to tell her it will be okay. It will take time and work, but we'll get him back to good footing. Literally.

22 August 2014

This most lovely August

     “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,
Fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high,
       Your daddy is rich, and your momma good-lookin’,
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry”


sung by Ella Fitzgerald

Summers in the Pacific Northwest have seldom been so hot or long lasting.

Usually, it doesn’t stop being cold and rainy until the 5th of July. Yes, the 5th. Usually it’s raining and cold when one goes out to see the fireworks on the 4th.

For two weeks after the 5th of July, the temperatures are torrid, with highs sometimes reaching 100 degrees. Being that we are above the 45th parallel, the same latitude as Frankfurt and Southern England, it shouldn’t be surprising that our summers are usually short and cold.

Frustrating my attempts to grow tomatoes, (especially) and other hot weather loving plants, the thermostat seems to plummet at the beginning of August. Tomatoes and beans not only like hot temperatures, but they also need a lot of ‘solar units’, meaning long hours of sunlight. Nope, again, right after summer solstice on 21 June, the PNW  sun shortens its work day.

This summer, however, has been an exception (although I believe it is the first summer of global warming normal). It got hot in June and has stayed hot. We’ve had but two days of rain, which we badly needed, as the West (East, to me) is burning. Literally. Wildfires have consumed over 400,000 acres just in my state alone.

Still, true to form, late August still is cooler than July. Today, the temp was 43 degrees and foggy on our morning walk.  It warmed up quickly, as it has all summer long, and right now is a balmy 74.

Growing up in the hot, humid, sweltering Midwest, I used to hate August. There was no escaping the heat (my father couldn’t afford air conditioning), and I used to suffer headaches that now, I know, were due to dehydration. What did we know then? 

But now, living in the PNW, I am loving this August. The temperature is perfect. The California poppies are still blooming, with fat, happy bumblebees wallowing in them like tiny buffalo. This year’s batch of onions is hardening off in the sunshine before I split it-half goes into our chest freezer, half goes to the food bank.

The lawn and gardens have senesced, meaning the only mowing I need to do is to behead the weeds. The flowers that aren’t still blooming have gone to seed, providing us the opportunity to watch goldfinches hanging upside down to harvest them. 

The bedsheets I washed this morning are drying on the clothes line. I’ll make up the bed with them this evening, and go to sleep with the scent of sun and wind in my nostrils.  

All my winter bedding, the comforters, the wool blankets, have had a good long day in the sunshine. My feather pillows have had the same treatment.
The goldfinch babies are now teenagers, no longer begging from their fathers for food. The ravens are klonking in the trees just beyond our property line. Despite their predatory ways, I love the ravens, if for no other reason than they keep the damned crows away. Cooper’s hawks have raised a pair of babies, and our barn owl babies are still coming out, late, late at night now, shrieking for mom and dad to bring them a rodent! They’ll be leaving soon, as will our purple martins. This is the first year I had martins nesting here, and only one pair raised up a couple of babies. They’re still in the area, getting ready for their migration to Brazil. They will be back, I know. 

While the birds have finished singing their summer songs, the crickets have taken over. There is something about crickets that just sound summery. It's a peaceful sound, a sound you only hear when it's warm, and dry. 

The wasps, as usual, didn’t get really going until the beginning of this month, but have made up for lost time in an explosion of nests.  While I appreciate the job they do killing nasties such as gypsy moth larvae and cutworms, still…my husband is allergic to their sting, and I don’t like being harassed when I’m weeding my gardens.  They have five acres in which to play, they don’t need to live in my eaves. We’ve sprayed over a dozen nests, and are still finding them.

We are actually getting summer chores done: cleaning and tightening gutters (very important in our rainy winters),cleaning out the garage (arrgh),  fencing the apple trees in hopes we get SOME of the Liberty’s before the deer do, cleaning bird boxes preparatory to sealing them off for the winter, putting up corn, marionberries, green beans and onions, and waiting for my fabulous black beans to completely dry before shucking. 

As I write this, we’ve got Jordan’s shed almost completely dismantled. Tomorrow I take the old siding/rotted out roof wood to the landfill. Last Tuesday, we’d filled up Tomboy (my trusty pickup truck) with a load of shingles and tar paper and took it to the landfill. After handling those things three times in less than 24 hours, I was glad to see them go for good.

It’s sad, in a way, to see my beloved geldings’ home taken down, but I know myself. I won’t be keeping a horse here, probably not ever again. It’s a ton of work, and my knees, back and shoulders can’t do it anymore.
But, I have money set aside. If I ever come into possession of a horse, I can board him for quite some time.

We battled tansy ragwort on the prairie from late Jun to early this month. We filled 35 garbage bags with tansy tops and toes, donating over 125 hours to the non-profit organization that oversees the restoration operations. We are still hunting for the late bloomers. Whether we’ve made a dent on the infestation, I don’t know. It’s been a wonderful year for tansy, as well, and it’s evolving to survive hot summers. The cinnabar moths only eat the first flush of tansy flowers, then pupate. The tansy blooms recover almost immediately and try to go to seed.  What a bummer. It’s a lot of thankless labor, especially as it’s all voluntary.

But the prairie knows. She’s given me so much, how can I not return her generosity with my own? There is a huge sense of satisfaction to go out on the preserve and see no tansy, knowing it’s all due to my husband's and my long hours of work.

Besides, nothing tunes up one’s birding/hunting eye like hunting tansy, a DYC that sneaks in amidst other DYC’s like St. John’s Wort and ragweed. (for the non-biologist/botanist/environmentalist/tree hugger, DYC is shorthand for Damned Yellow Composite, a description of the most common types of flowers. It’s in the same league as a birder’s LBJ-Little Brown Job ). Not that I intend on hunting deer this year, although we could use the meat. But we’re considering a camping trip to California, to see redwoods and wildlife. Migrating fall warblers are hard to spot and even harder to identify, so a sharp eye is a must.

We have spent the vast majority of the summer outdoors. It’s been fabulous.

I’m writing this, probably, for myself. Because, in six months, it will be February, with days just a few hours long, when the sun is down by 4 PM and the skies are gray for months at a time. There will be snow, rain, icy roads, and power failures. The foyer will be cluttered with a dozen pairs of boots in various stages of wet, drying and dry, the scent of wet clothing ponging the indoor air. We'll have to dress in layers, waddling like the Michelin Man, but not so cheerfully. Doing anything outside will be an exercise in exposure to the elements. 

Riding will be an effort. Horses don't really care to have an icy cold bit put in his mouth. Cold leather tack is frustratingly hard to work with. One either fumbles trying to buckle a bridle with gloves, or freeze one's fingers (or worse, tear off a fingernail) if one tries it barehanded. Blankets get wet and stay wet, adding a hundred pounds to your efforts at caring for your horse. You worry about horses not drinking enough, muddy paddocks sucking the shoes right off his feet, not daring to do anything more than a tentative walk for fear of his slipping and falling on ice, rain rot if he's not blanketed, icy conditions keeping him in his stall, and wondering if it's worth driving in the rain, the snow, the dark to look at a horse you don't ride in the winter.

So, I suppose I am blogging for myself.
I will scroll back through my list of posts, and see this title, and read it, remembering this lovely day. 

Oh, August, month of barbecues and home made lemonade, of sunscreen and clear blue skies, spiders weaving webs on my lawn mower, gossamer shining in the evening sunshine,  watching the cats stalk grasshoppers and preying mantises in this, the Year of the Horse (2014).  August, here’s to you. It's been lovely.

21 August 2014

Stolen tack is jinxed

         Raven recently moved into a new barn (which I'll call The Barn, as it's privately owned.)

        It's a well kept facility. I know several of the women who already have their horses there, some for years. They're all honest people.

       Last week, the owner hosted a tack sale. Signs were posted on the road and I was invited to add whatever I wanted to sell.

        Due to a prior commitment, I was unable to stay for the sale. So I put only one item in the sale: my 22" Albion padded leather girth. I used it no more than five times, and then changed horses. I've been trying to get rid of it ever since I sold the saddle, because it fits Arabians, not the big warmbloods I've been riding since.

       The day after the sale, I went back to the barn, and my girth was not to be found amidst the other items that hadn't sold.

      The story (and I have no reason to disbelieve the barn folk), is that a woman showed up with several kids in tow. She wandered the barn aisle, looking at the tack, and showed an interest in the several girths for sale, to include mine.

     Just before she left, the kids suddenly went berserk. There were '3 or 4', that rampaged through the barn, one went running to see the horses in their paddocks, another tried to go up into the haymow, etc.

    These actions were planned. The barn folk's attention were drawn to the kids, NOT the woman. Within a few minutes, the woman called her kids back to her side, seemingly embarassed, and used that as an excuse to leave.

    One of the barn folk said, 'I didn't like the looks of her right from the start.'

    It was only the next day that we realized that my girth was missing, and no one had purchased it.

   The woman had stolen it.

   Well, let me tell you something, Momma Thief.  It's a horrible example you're setting for your kids. I'm betting in the future, I'll be paying for them in the way of keeping them fed in prison. 

   It's not the fact that I'm out a girth that pisses me off-I wasn't using it. It's the fact that you stole at all.

     I wanted to sell it. Despite the fact that it cost me $175 new, I was willing to let it go for $65, and was willing to accept a reasonable offer.

    But no, you had to steal it. You went in with full intentions of stealing something. It's why you brought your kids. You've done this before, haven't you? My friends at the barn were amazed at how the kids all scattered at once, in four different directions. You've trained your kids to be accessories to theft.

  Let me warn you, Thief. Stolen tack is jinxed.  Yeah, I just made that up, but I want to throw that little bottle out onto the internet sea. If you steal tack, that item is is going to have its revenge: fall apart when you need it to stay together. Break when it's the most inconvenient. Lead someone else to steal everything you own. Or, maybe, if you're stupid enough to put it on Craig's List, lead the police to your door. (I bet they already have your name and address on speed dial.)

    Stolen tack is cursed with bad juju, and I hope, woman, that it hits you.

   Thief, (I can't call you "lady" or "ma'am", as they are honorifics), just remember, Karma will get you. It will.  What goes around, comes around. It always does.

   Bad luck to you, thief.

18 August 2014

Welcome to my new blog! If you've been following me at Through the Bridle Lightly at word press http://www.throughthebridlelightly.wordpress.com,
then  you know a little about me.

If not, I'll try and introduce myself. 

I'm a middle aged American woman living in the Pacific Northwest. I spent 21 years in the US Army, where I was, among other specialities, a microwave antenna repairer (yes, I climbed those impossibly high metal towers) (and no, I didn't like it, I hated it) and for most of my career, a tank repairer. That MOS I found a little more rewarding, mostly because I became enamored of the M1A1 Abrams tank, especially after seeing it in action in Desert Storm and Iraq.

After retiring from the Army, I found myself with a little more time to indulge my passion for horses. I hadn't had much training in riding back then. Most of my riding consisted of here's someone's western saddled horse, hop up and hang on.  But I found a career (such as it was) that melded two of my interests together: animal anatomy and massage. I professionally massaged horses for 16 years, until my shoulders couldn't take it anymore. I was good at it. I could...and sometimes had to, especially at endurance rides, massage horses in the dark. Touching a horse, especially without interruption, can tell you so many things if only you know how to listen.

Because I can hear horses. I know what they're thinking. I'm not psychic, no, but I am a student of animal (and human) behavior, and I've learned two things:

One, you cannot lie to an animal. Meaning, not that you shouldn't but that you as a human (that uses speech to communicate with other humans) are also yelling your every thought and motive through your body language, and every animal I've ever met can read you like a book. In other words, you CAN'T lie to an animal. It knows the truth, just by reading YOU.

The other thing I learned is how to read an animal's body language. They tell you, just as you tell them, what they are feeling and in many cases, what they are about to do. I don't mean to boast, but this ability does well for me when I'm at the racetrack. Once they get onto the track, preparatory to entering the gate, that horse is telling you tons of info. I can usually pick the winner, or at least the place horse. The problem is, I'm poor, so I don't bet a lot of money, and the handicappers and the tracks can also tell pretty much who's going to win. The favorite rarely pays well. The track wants you to put big money on the long shots...and occasionally, those long shots win. But not often.

Finally, at the ripe old age of 48, I finally realized what I wanted to be when I grew up. Maybe it took that long it took that long for me to grow up. Or maybe it was because my life had finally slowed down enough for me to be able to take time to  go back to college and get my degree in my other passion, biology. I didn't need schooling for anything more than a tune up, especially in genetics, but going to college to get my bachelors made me 'official'. Not that it got me a job. I was told by a so called 'counselor' that I would never get a job in biology without a Masters or a PhD, and damn it, she was right.

The sting, though, is eased by the fact that I see plenty of Biology masters and PhDs serving coffee at Starbucks. They're not getting jobs in biology, either.

Not only could I not afford a Masters/PhD, but acquiring one involved taking some hideous subjects such as physics, trigonometry and calculus. I cannot understand the reasoning behind this. Chemistry and Physics majors aren't required to take biology, but Biology majors are. I think it's because chemistry and physics are old, tired fields, without much new work being done, whereas this is the Golden Age of Biology. So most math, chemistry and physics majors end up being math, chemistry and physics teachers.  Not for me, thank you, I didn't like being indoors for hours on end, so I took what courses I wanted and when they gave me a Bachelor's diploma, I was done.  

So I'm merely a BS than MS. That's okay. I don't mind. I went back to school to indulge myself in science. And I've been wallowing in it..and horses..ever since.

For the last part (if you've read this far, I commend you. Mostly I'm trying to build up an archive so webcrawlers find me), I am lucky in that a friend of mine, Sue, shares her Hanoverian gelding, Raven with me. I can't afford a horse, and she needs a 'horse friend'.

Because I'm new to Blogger, I'll try and put a picture of me and Raven in here.
Isn't he a beauty? I think so.

Alright then, let's add a few labels and publish.

17 August 2014

I've moved from my WordPress blog, "Through The Bridle Lightly". That blog host site made ridiculous, juvenile and unwanted changes to the entire process of blogging, without bothering to listen to the people who created them (and in many cases, purchased premium or domains for a lot of money).

What WordPress.org did was use the customers on WordPress.com as lab rats, as beta testers, without asking us if we minded. And we did mind, quite vociferously, but were ignored. WP cherry picked the issues it chose to address and ignored the rest.

Thus I am changing to blogger. I don't know if it will be better than WP, I sort of doubt it, but Google being who and what it is, I don't believe they depend on bloggers to make their money.

Anyway, you are welcome to follow me here. I am going to try and import all my posts from Through The Bridle Lightly, but if they don't import...well, I suppose I must start all over again.

I'm still Khutulan. I do like the name of my new blog. It is a better reflection of who I am.