OLD AGE

 Time is short. Shorter than a lifetime. Shorter than I used to believe.

With every friend or family member who passes, there is loss, not only of the loved one, but also, a bit of me. My edges and colors lose sharpness. Motivation fades.

Some have not passed; they have gone mad. The loss is just as deep.

Love definitely makes the world go ’round.

With each passing, there is less love, and the earth’s spin slows.

Here’s to hoping those few loved ones of mine, who are still in this world, will hang on. Stay, please, just a little longer. So I can do a few things.

While there is still time.

Time that pulls, like the inexorable low tide, toward the infinite ocean of solitude.

The next stage, old age, is the remembering.

 

Frisco and Me Sept 20, 2014 3

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IF YOU ARE ARRESTED

If you are arrested, you need to know:

The presumption of innocence is really the presumption of guilt.

Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt means, the accused was arrested so he’s probably guilty.

The burden of proof is meaningless because the proof consists of unfounded conclusions, which is the same thing as rank speculation.

The right to be represented by an attorney, even if you can’t afford one, really means you have the right to be represented by a lawyer who is underpaid and overworked.

The right to a trial by jury really means you have the right to see what 12 people, who were not there and don’t know you or the victim, can come up with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sun Comes Up

The sun comes up over the east pasture every morning. It sets over the west pasture like a fiery crown.

These are the two most important events of every day.

The next most important event is I breathe.

The earth breathes. All living things breathe. In and out, one breath follows another, all life must breathe.

With each breath, we march closer to our destiny, which is death.

For eons, before our birth, we slept the great sleep. For eons, after our death, we will sleep the great sleep.

Life is an interval, a temporary state, a fleeting pause from the eternal.

As I breathe, so I understand.

Halter Drama – A Hunter Rider Returns to Her Cowgirl Roots

Soooo, I decided it was time to halter and tie Frisco and pick his hooves. We had been at the new farm for a few weeks. Frisco had the run of the place while he adjusted to his new barn, new pasture, new sights, new sounds, new everything.

He hadn’t been ridden in months. We had been apart while I found the farm, moved in and got it ready for the horses. I could have paid someone to ride Frisco during those months, but money was in short supply. I had even pulled his shoes to cut expenses.
Now it was time to put Frisco back to work. First I would add grooming to our routine. Next on the agenda would come lunging, then riding at home and finally, riding at the 8,000 acre park at the end of my street. But initially, we had to establish catching, haltering, tying and picking feet.
To a thoroughbred cross, new things are highly suspicious. If the cross is 17.2 hh and strongly opinionated, it is important to keep things positive. Lest you underestimate the challenge of catching and haltering in a new place, you must consider that Frisco is bipolar. Easy going and docile most of the time, when his Native Dancer and Man O’ War genes fire up, he goes from 0 to 60 in a nano second.
Add to this, Frisco has the memory of an elephant. One run through is all it takes for him to learn a routine. He will insist on doing things exactly the same way the second time around, which then makes it an ingrained habit.
This is how the “running away from catching and haltering issue” all began. It was just a silly thing that started when Frisco was a yearling. He was adorable. Bouncing on his toes, he would frolic around me, looking like a dark giraff, almost doing back flips and sometimes landing on his belly with all four legs splayed.
Not knowing the consequences, I laughed and played the game with him, chasing him and letting him chase me, instead of putting on his halter. We both had great fun that day. I noted but did not understand the concerned face of the dressage instructor who passed by the indoor arena on her way to give a lesson. I now understand completely her raised eyebrows.
You see, Frisco has never forgotten how much he loves to play this game. But now that he is 20 years old, it is no longer cute. Not to mention, it is inconvenient and embarrasing to have your horse run away when you walk out to the field holding a halter and lead. Frisco taught me, from his very first days, how easy it is to teach a horse to do something you don’t want him to do.
All of which is to say, I was determined that this first time catching and haltering and tying and hoof picking at the new place would go smoothly, so that we could establish an easy, normal routine. I had learned the hard way that first time introductions with Frisco were fraught with opportunities for drama that could become a not so cherished, but integral part of my daily life.
With a few pellets of feed sprinkled into his feed bucket, I encouraged Frisco to come into his stall. I put on his rope halter and he immediately raised his head and widened his eyes. As we walked out the barn door and into the pasture, he didn’t dance around, but only because he hadn’t worked up to it yet. It was clearly on his mind.
Frisco has a habit of getting excited over his halter. In the past, at boarding barns in the suburbs of Atlanta, I just coped with his refusal to stand still and be haltered in the paddock. He was easy to halter at feeding time, impossible to catch at riding time. So he would stay in his stall after the morning feed until I arrived to ride.
Now that Frisco lives in my backyard, I can spend more time with him, and the “running away from catching and haltering routine” was one that needed to change. Cowgirl that I am, now that I live on a farm, as opposed to my former status as a boarder-lesson taker-competitor, I decided it was time to address the catching and haltering issue, which is long-standing and ridiculous.
For what seemed like hours, but was only a few minutes, I desensitized Frisco to the halter and lead. I released him and gave him a few more pellets to encourage him to come to me instead of trotting or galloping away. I poured the handful of pellets in his feed pan in the pasture, since he can be nippy if handfed.
Refusing to chase him, I walked in the opposite direction when he would take off. Looking over his shoulder and seeing I was not following behind, Frisco turned and stopped and tried to figure out why I did not chase him. When he let me approach, I touched his shoulder with the lead and halter and off he would go again.
After a little while, he came in closer. His passes were tighter by a half inch each time. I said “good boy” and beamed. He slowed from a trot to a walk. Then he let me rub him once or twice with the halter and lead in my hand, as he skirted past. At last he stood still and I rubbed him all over with the halter, put it on and took it off, twenty times, and patted him. I threw the lead line over his back and neck and rubbed it on the underside of his belly and down each of his legs. And I gave him a few more pellets, again in his feed pan. He was convinced at last that this was very boring and he wanted to just get the halter on.
I put the halter on him one last time, tied it and walked him around. He was calm and I calmed down a little too. So far so good. Training is not as easy, I realised, when there is no one around to cheer you on or take photos or tell you to do something differently or try to take over. I missed my barn mates but soldiered on.
I walked Frisco around the pasture a bit and then over to the post next to the barn. There was a ring nailed to the post, so I tied Frisco, choosing a quick release knot. I was a little concerned because we only used cross ties at our previous barns, but Frisco seemed fine with the single ring.
I picked his front hooves, which are huge, and prepared to address his rear hooves. His long legs were unblemished, extraordinary for a retired show hunter, and heavily muscled. I say, “prepared to address his rear hooves” because, shameful but true, I was intimidated to pick the rear hooves of the horse I’ve owned for 20 years.
To make matters worse, my daughter’s pony, Cupcake, was loose in the pasture. I tried to shoo Cupcake away but Frisco began to step from side to side, turning his head so he could look behind him from each eye, with his nostrils wide and his ears at attention. He rolled his eyes to show the whites. There was no mistaking his alarm.
I couldn’t get rid of Cupcake. He insisted on coming in close, putting his nose right up against Frisco’s backside. This resulted in snorts and stomps and icy stares by Frisco. The more Frisco fussed, the closer Cupcake stuck to him.
I waived at Cupcake, Frisco stepped to the side and Cupcake attached his nose to Frisco’s other buttock.
Cupcake’s halter was in the trailer and I didn’t dare leave the scene to go get it and risk a mishap. A bad experience would convince Frisco for the rest of his life that being tied to a post beside his barn in the middle of his pasture was not a good idea and not something he would do willingly.
If this occurred, I would be on the losing end. A physical struggle with a 17.2 hh, 1300 pound horse cannot be won by a mere human. Persuasion and tact are necessary with such an animal. These tools work best on an open mind. Which is to say, they are not very effective to alter an entrenched opinion, at least not in the short run. They do work if you can make a career out of it. I chose to not make a career out of catching and tying and hoof picking. All things considered, it would be easier and a time saver to do things right with Frisco the first time, actually this was the second time, around.
We had come this far, braved through the difficult parts and it was only a few more steps to complete the routine that would include picking hooves. I didn’t want to quit before I finished my task, knowing if backed down and stopped now, I would make things infinitely harder for myself the next time I decided to pick hooves. On the other hand, it was better to abort the mission than have it go bust.
I waited a moment to let them settle, then said a little prayer because my medicare coverage doesn’t begin for a few months. I touched Frisco’s rear leg, Cupcake breathing on the back of my neck as I bent over. Frisco shifted balance to the other hind, lifted his nose and grabbed the lead line in his teeth, pulling out the knot. Cocking his near hind, he lowered his head, shook it hard and blew a great blasting sigh. I picked his back hooves. Both of them.

Halter Feb. 25, 2018 1

THE FALSE REALITY

Image result for evil in sheep's clothing

Section 1

Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing!  These monsters exist.  And their powers of destruction are terrifying!  But reader, be assured, such predators pose a danger only to those who are gullible.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing is one who tells lies . . . to those who wish to be deceived.  The deceit is superficial, half-hearted, contrived in such a way as to fool no one, other than the altruistic victim.

These wolves are not to be confused with actual wolves who do not wear a disguise.  Actual wolves are magnificent, gloriously true to their nature and purpose.  The wolf in sheep’s clothing is a different sort of creature.  This predator seeks to devour your mind and your beliefs and your sanity.

Remember the story of “Little Red Riding Hood?”  In the original, ancient folk tale, Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother are eaten by the wolf.  While later versions of the tale bastardize the ending by adding a lumberjack or hunter who saves them both, only the 10th century version makes sense.  That is, you must save yourself or perish, along with those you love.  Unless, of course, you wish to believe in Superman, Spiderman, Batman or King Arthur, in which case this story is not for you, and best of luck waiting for your White Knight to appear!

Another fable, with a similar message is Lewis Carol’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” as told to Alice by Tweetledee and Tweetledum, in Through the Looking-Glass.  In the story, reason and logic is fruitless.  Compromise is sabotaged.  The ending is unfair and gruesome.  Again, however, as in the case of “Little Red Riding Hood,” the theme is:  just because someone says something, doesn’t make it true!  The Walrus and the Carpenter never listen to anything said by the oysters, never varying from their agenda to deceive and exploit them.  To the very end, the Walrus continues to express insincere sympathy and regret, presenting evil as good, while the Carpenter openly mocks his annihilated victims with, “O Oysters . . . You’ve had a pleasant run!”

When you are dealing with wolves in sheep’s clothing, there is no misunderstanding.  You will not be heard, no matter what you say or how you say it.

I married into such a family completely unsuspecting the madness that lay just beneath a thin veneer of middle class values and social respectability.  A wolf in sheep’s clothing was never more apt as the crest of my betrothed and his family.  That is not to lay any blame upon them.  They were what they were.  Imposters!  Seemingly decent and accomplished folks, valued members of their community, I mistook their braggadocio as social awkwardness.  I generously overlooked their lack of praise for others, including myself, as emotional reticence.  The telltale flags were glaring, had I chosen to heed them.

Too late, I realized my predicament.  And the wolves did what wolves do.  Working as a team, they assessed, trailed, encircled and prepared to devour their prey.

 

 

 

 

 

Discarded

“The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.”

Requieum for a Nun, William Faulkner

 

“Mother, you can be proud,” she said.  “You have three beautiful, accomplished children!”

The words etched themselves upon my heart, as if an epitaph upon my gravestone.  I bit my tongue as I pondered my daughter’s meaning.

Is she proud of me?  Does she think her Mother is beautiful and accomplished? 

Not likely.  My daughter’s words, seemingly encouraging, were in fact as sharp as any dagger.  You can be proud Mother, not for any beauty, talent or strength of character you personally possess, because you are not worthy.  But you can be proud of your offspring.  Her words chilled rather than warmed.

I said nothing.  If I protested, she would hang up.  She would shut me out again.  The force of my disappointment was physical.  Trying to think of a response that would not draw her ire, I shuddered.  It was impossible.

The pause became awkward.  As so often happened, I was transported to a time, a happier time, in the past, a time when I was different, stronger in my sense of self, when the universe was friendly, when my life made sense.  The present was a Clockwork Orange.  Dealing with my children was like interacting with robots.

Knowing it was a mistake, forgetting momentarily, the painful present, I protested.

Even over the phone, I could feel her pull away from me, losing interest, shutting down, as I spoke of a former time.  Long ago was nothing like now.  Then, I was proud of myself, of her, of my family.  Now, I couldn’t seem to stay in the present.  There was so much pain, confusion, unfinished business, in the present.

What did I do wrong?  What sin did I commit so awful that my children cut off all communication?

When my daughter, my little one with the big eyes and the bigger grin, left home for college, she didn’t tell me she would no longer have relations with me.  There was no warning.   There was no discussion.  There was no appeal from the sentence of banishment.  I didn’t share her college experience even though she entered the same university where I had set out on my life, the place where I met her father.

I was thrilled when she told me she was going to my alma mater.  But not for long.  My happiness turned to shock and then inconsolable grief when she wouldn’t let me visit her.  She refused to let me help her move into her dorm room.  She declined the gifts I bought for her.  She told me not to come to parent’s day.  “Why not?,” I asked, indignant.  “It would be awkward.”  My initial joy turned to infinite sadness as the years passed.

We didn’t talk at all, after that one phone call.   During her four years at the school where both her dad and I had studied, I never visited my daughter at university.  I never saw her dorm room or even a photo of it.  I didn’t know anything about her studies.  I didn’t hear about her experiences.  I didn’t meet her friends.  I wasn’t invited to her graduation.  No reason was given other than, “It would be awkward.”

This phone call came three years after she graduated.  I still didn’t know her major.  In fact, I didn’t even know where she was living.

Why, I wondered.  Why could I not come to parent’s day?  Why was I not invited to your graduation?  Why?  Why?  Why?

I dare not ask these questions.  They just swirled around in my head, never ceasing, going nowhere, repeating and repeating aimlessly and endlessly.  There were no answers.  I could not think of a reason for my discard.  I had done nothing to deserve being erased.

I wanted to scream, to loudly and forcefully object.  I stifled my protest.  Resistance would only bring more torture.  Any show of anger would be condemned and I would be banished, again.  She would say goodbye . . . or just . . . hang up . . . who knows for how long . . . . perhaps for years . . . . perhaps forever.

Oh no!  I must make this conversation work! 

I became tearful.  I was blowing it!  Trying to steady myself, my fingers gripped the phone until they ached.  But I could tell my child, my now adult child, had lost interest in the conversation.  She waited for me to run out of steam.

I thought of the day she left.  Her older sister, my first born, helped her pack her things.  Then they sat with me by the pool for a moment in the summer sunshine.  The younger daughter jumped into the pool.  The older daughter firmly declined.  Her boyfriend sat poolside.  He looked like he would love to jump into the sparkling blue water, but he just parroted his love interest.  My son, the middle child, was studying out of state.  He didn’t answer my calls either.

What a perfect time for a poolside cookout, I mused.

Our home was a roomy cape cod, set on 5 acres, with a pasture, barn and riding arena.  My two horses and the children’s pony were grazing in the field next to the pool, watching us, surprised to see such a gathering.  Three dogs and two cats lounged nearby.

The house will be enormous for one person.  

I looked past the crepe myrtles, loaded with huge pink blossoms, that lined the far side of the black iron fence encircling the pool, at the horses.  They instantly noticed my gaze, raised their heads and began walking lazily over to the fence.  The grass under their feet was a soft green carpet, more plush than a Persian rug.  I mowed their field weekly on my ancient riding mower because there was more grass than they could eat and if not mowed, it quickly grew up to their shoulders.  They were round and glossy, happy to have visitors.

I sighed and turned back to the group of young folks.  They were lively, full of youth’s optimistic expectation, obviously excited about the departure of the youngest.  She was barely 17.

They loaded up and we said our goodbyes, their eagerness overpowering my reluctance.  The car pulled out of the long driveway that ran between two sets of four board fences.  My first born was at the wheel.  My youngest was in the front passenger seat.  The man-boyfriend sat in the back.

As the car turned out of the drive, the baby of the family threw up her arm, in salute, and left it up until the car went around the bend and out of sight.  I watched her arm, until I could see it no more.

The horses came round to the front pasture and stood beside me, on the other side of the fence.  They stretched out their heads, hopeful for a scratch.  I paid no notice, gazing at the empty road, seeing, in my mind, the little black car, the long slender arm slung upward, fingers reaching for the sky.

My Journey to Liberty Horsemanship – Chapter 3

Before long, the noonday rays of the late fall sun and the bird’s chattery chirp brought on dreamy half-sleep.  My dreams were of Cupcake.  In my mind’s eye, I went back in time, from the dashed hopes of this morning, to the promise of the day he was born.

Ten years earlier, when I was riding at a different barn, Smithwood Farm, there was a mare in foal.  The mare was old, in her upper teens, a pale grey, the color of a ghost.  The barn owner, Rubin Smith, hovered over her as if she were carrying the offspring of Secretariat himself.  She was given special supplements and spent her afternoons in the paddock closest to the riding ring, where Rubin could keep an eye on her.

Rubin was a busy man.  On a typical day, he supervised the barn hands, assisted the younger children in tacking up, mounting, dismounting and removing tack, answered their many questions and those of their mothers and siblings, gave lessons, managed the delivery of enormous quantities of hay, feed and shavings, planned the shows held regularly at the local show grounds and, most importantly, kept a close eye on every single child and every single pony.  There was a lot of coming and going.

In addition to the boarders and regular lesson students, folks often dropped in to purchase a pony.  Rubin was well known locally and throughout the country, as the “Pony Guru.”  His riders were always the top winners of each division, from beginner cross rails to the most competitive classes in the prestigious shows, the most prestigious of all being Pony Finals.  Despite his proven record and all the activity at his barn, I couldn’t help but notice how Rubin fussed over that old mare.

As she grew rounder and rounder, the mare’s belly became the most striking aspect of her streamlined, thoroughbred frame.  The sire was a well known Dartmoor pony stallion, Cruachan Valentine, shipped as a weanling from the moors of Devon, to stand in Georgia.  He was ten years old, a typey example of the centuries old breed that is native to south western England.

Dartmoor ponies are rare.  Some have said they are more rare than giant pandas.  Regrettably, they are on the Endangered Breeds List of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. However, it just happened, at Smithwood Farm, there were lots of Dartmoor ponies, at least half a dozen, by my estimate.  And every one of these ponies was a sibling, half-sibling, cousin, aunt or uncle of the soon to be born foal.

Watching these ponies and their young jockeys, I observed first hand that Dartmoor ponies are athletic, smart, kind and have extraordinary movement.  They also generally live long healthy lives.  The Smithwood Dartmoors were various shades of bay, with one exception, an adorable grey gelding, whose name was Arthur.  He had large, dark eyes that peeked out from under a thick shock of platinum forelock.  Arthur was the foal’s uncle, and the designated ride for the very youngest riders.

There were other ponies too, Welsh, Connemara, Shetland and colored ponies of unknown origin. And there were a jillion kids who came after school every day to ride. Rubin stood in the middle of the ring and directed the exuberant mob.

 

“Heels down.” “Sit Up.” “Shoulders back.” “Eyes up.” Riders approaching a jump were told, “Wait. Wait. Wait.” “Ho to the trot.” or “Look to the next jump.”

 

Sometimes Rubin stopped everyone to let a less experienced child canter around the ring. Other times, he called out the jumps and all the children rode in tandem, each one taking a turn to jump, while the rest of the group waited patently at a halt. All the while Arthur would follow Rubin around, safely and adorably carrying a preschooler, who held the reins and kicked mightily. The mothers would site ringside, chatting and holding snacks and small bottles of frozen orange juice for their children. Falls were rare and, despite the bedlam, none of the children came to harm.

 

I approached Rubin and asked if the foal was for sale.  He named a price and seemed surprised when I said okay.  Before he could change his mind, I asked if I could go ahead and close the deal right away, before the foal was born.  I wanted a Dartmoor pony for my daughter and there wasn’t another one for sale within a thousand miles.

“At least wait until it’s on the ground.”

“I’m ready to buy it now.”

And so the deal was made, and my daughter became the proud owner of a pony.  Only, we didn’t know if the pony was a colt or a filly, what color it was or anything else about it.  None of this mattered.  Our excitement was boundless.