Archive for April, 2013

action jackson

Toni and Colin came back from two solid months at HITS Thermal reinvigorated and with higher standards than ever. Christi and I have been riding with both of them quite a lot, and more is expected of us: faster, softer transitions, tighter turns, straighter and more precise approaches.

Luckily I spent the winter and spring riding Jackson (my Bella has gone back to her owners, I don’t want to talk about that) and we’ve built and built and built on the connection we made in the fall. Today was our third lesson with Colin in just over a week. He had us riding trot poles then doing inside turns at the canter into verticals. I would look at the impossibly twisty track and tell myself firmly, “We can do that,” and then we did.

My lug-eared, coffin-headed old Thoroughbred Jackson has taught me more than any other horse I have ever ridden. There is a place on his back where I feel strong and safe and secure. I sit there like a little fat Buddha and I can use my hands and legs independently. In one memorable flat lesson, Jackson taught me to weight my outside stirrup on a small circle. In another, just after I got back from London, I visualized myself as a haggis, sinking into the saddle. To get that tight inside turn, I just weighted the outside stirrup and sat like a haggis. We nailed it.

He is both fussy and lazy. If you mess with his face he gets pissy and sucks back behind your leg. If you use your leg more than he thinks is fair, he does huge clumsy stupid bucks. Between the two extremes is a place where you can move him forward off a quiet leg into a soft, living contact, a conversation between his mouth and your hand, and if you can stretch up from there and wait, wait, wait, he can jump anything.

Today we jumped nearly everything like that, forward and uphill off a positive leg into a positive contact. The one exception, of course, was the fence where we missed our distance, he ran out and I toppled off his shoulder. I wasn’t hurt, except in the dignity area, and I got back on and regained our mojo. But I had arena sand down my pants.

Who cares? The April sun hot on my back, the white sand and green leaves of our Grand Prix arena, Jackson listening and hunting the next fence, confident and bright. Colin was unfussed by the fall and called it a momentary lapse of concentration, which is exactly what it was. Everything else, he said, was awesome. I like it when he praises my riding, but I like it even better when he says: “That horse is so much happier and healthier since he’s been in your program. He’s enjoying his work.” I tried to think of a compliment that would mean more to me, but I can’t.

there was something about anarchy, i remember that much

Kirsty is a force of nature. I’ve been meaning to go up to Edinburgh since Alex and Ioanna moved there from Ireland years ago, but the details eluded me. When I mentioned it in passing to Kirsty the whole thing was organized in what seemed like sixty seconds. I flew in early for the London conference I come to every April, and Kirsty and I caught the train to Edinburgh.

The journey was gorgeous and fascinating. “Green and pleasant land,” I tweeted as we left London, then “dark Satanic Mills!” as we crossed the midlands and I saw four huge power stations (Eggborough and friends maybe?) belching steam into an otherwise cloudless sky. As we sped to Scotland we saw Durham Cathedral, the Angel of the North (which I have loved since first seeing pictures of it and which came as a completely unexpected treat), beautiful steampunk Newcastle, Lindisfarne like something from a Miyazaki film or happy dream, the sun sparkling on the mouth of the Tweed at Berwick, and the looming bulk of the Torness Nuclear Plant.

Motion sickness got to me after a while. (The hangover from the night before probably didn’t help. That was Grant’s fault.) I thought I was going to hurl all over Waverley Station. I took my first steps in Scotland trying not to puke and telling myself “Don’t mention their accents don’t mention their accents,” so of course when I called Alex I blurted out “you sound very Irish.” I guess at least I didn’t vomit?

When I had recovered myself somewhat Kirsty and I had fun storming Edinburgh castle, and when we finally did make it to Alex’s house the awkwardness of nine years’ separation did not survive its first encounter with a pretty decent Sangiovese I’d brought out from California. Alex made osso buco. It was delicious. Ioanna is delightful and their daughter Lena is so best. We figured out how to fix capitalism but I didn’t write it down, so that’s a pity.

this is what you dream about

I dreamed Jeremy and I were invited to a party being held by a prominent Utah ladyblogger – no, not her. The other one. She and her husband lived on five acres with a barn down the back that was managed by her trainer. They had a small ranch home but had built a much larger house on the property, and the party was held there. This is what you dream about while trying to refinance your mortgage after watching The Queen of Versailles.

Its living room was entirely decorated in marble parquetry, which, sure, sounds attractive, but the stone was all pink and beige so it was like being inside a patchwork liver. Even the television surrounds were made of entraily marble. Envious of our hosts’s tract of land, I tittered unkindly at their lack of taste.

The other guests included Jim Carrey and Julian Assange. I sucked up to Carrey, who tried not to seem bored.

Julian acted like a douche.