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>To: My Readers; From: Tucker; Re: Plea for Return to Normalcy

May 25, 2011 2 comments

>Hello everyone,

Yes, it’s me.  She finally gave me some face time with you.  Well, actually, she doesn’t really know that I’ve hacked into the blog.  Hudson told me I could tap into the wireless signal of a nearby house, and since my field happens to be next to the farmhouse, voila, here I am, connected to the world.  Then he gave me a tip about making friends with a cat (which I’m really good at, obviously, see here and here — didn’t even need to mention “tuna”).  Once I was connected, it was just a matter of hacking, and I adore hacking!  I win hacks all the time.  Nothing to it, really.

You may be wondering why I’ve waited until now to address you directly.  This blog, after all, has been going on for almost two years now, and I haven’t felt a need to make an appearance yet, even though I absolutely could have, should the need have arisen.  Up until now I believe my mother has been representing my interests well… though at times, I feel she paints me in a rather comical light, even in more serious moments, like when our general welfare and safety is at stake…. 

I have no idea why you all find my bravery in these circumstances so funny, but humans are a strange and illogical breed.  Which is why I do, at times, “play the fool” for your general amusement.  I have learned, over time, that humans are easily amused, and prone to dispense treats with a frequency directly proportional to the amount of ridiculous tricks, endearing faces, and kind gestures that a horse displays.  Of course, treats are also dispensed based on level of performance, but truly, I perform well for my own satisfaction.  It’s a matter of pride, really, to do a job so well. 

Which brings me to my point.  My job.  I am a hunter, and while it took me a few years to catch on to the point of this sport, I have now mastered it and believe that I execute my role with tact, finesse, and style.  The tact, of course, comes into play when I overlook the occasional pilot error and recalculate the amount of strength and impulsion that will be required in order to clear the obstacle before us in a safe and efficient manner, and stifle my urge to express my displeasure with this situation upon landing.  The finesse allows me to make the above-described “recalculations” appear natural and effortless, a feat I have mastered over the course of several years of experience (believe me, she gives me lots of practice covering up these things).  And then there’s style, which really can’t be learned.  It’s something a horse is either born with or without, and I don’t mean to sound boastful, but like I said, I’m good at my job. 

In recent months, however, I have been prevented from doing my job.  First there was the awful month of March.  An entire month where I was denied my usual recreation and workout, and instead kept confined to my stall for days on end, for no reason that I could surmise at all.  The weather appeared fine and from what I could gather, the other horses with whom I am stabled continued to go about their usual routines.  I continued to receive daily food and care from the lovely individuals who appear to be responsible for me when my mother is not available, so perhaps it was simply an oversight.  For the life of me, I will never know what happened during that month nor why I was confined in such an unreasonable manner.  There was, of course, some talk of the minor abrasion to my right hock, but I can assure you, it was nothing.  I do appreciate my mother’s concern and her care for it, but honestly, I could have continued on with my job and would have been happy to do so.

Then there was a very brief interlude where I was again released to my field for recreation, though once again, for reasons unknown to me, I was returned to my stall for almost the duration of April.  April, as you may or may not know, is the month where Spring grass really begins to grow in earnest.  It is, quite possibly, one of the best months of a horse’s year (well before the “annoying season” as Hudson so aptly put it).  It is also the month when horse shows begin outdoors again, which I find to be far more enjoyable than those dreadful winter shows, where one shivers on a trailer only to be led into a bleak, dark indoor where one must collect one’s stride between fences as well as through corners in order to manage a tidy picture in the confines of such a small enclosure.  An outside course, in my opinion, is really the only way to show off one’s true talents.

This April, however, did not bring such joys to my life.  Instead, I was yet again trapped in a 12×12 space for almost the entire span of the month.  During this time, my mother visited frequently, but seemed fixated solely upon my coat.  We did not exercise at all, but instead she spent day after day, night after night, currying, brushing, polishing, combing, spraying, and fussing over me like a champion show poodle (there were even several baths, a disgusting practice of which I highly disapprove, and I hear that there have been talks of a contest my mother is trying to win, which will surely bring on even more baths).  I don’t mean to sound ungrateful.  I enjoy grooming and find it relaxes and soothes my muscles after or prior to a hard physical workout.  The extra benefit that it keeps me looking so well is an added bonus, and I do understand that there is a certain element of physical attractiveness required for my job.  My problem is simply that the workout itself was entirely lacking from our routine.

Now that we are “back to work,” I’m sorry to report that our routine has been severely truncated.  My mother seems to have determined that the walk is the gait upon which we should concentrate, and we spend almost all of our time practicing it.  I’ve always felt that I have a lovely, natural, ground covering walk and need very little practice to master it.  I also enjoy being able to take in my surroundings and get a bit of sight-seeing done while walking and do not appreciate the level of concentration upon which she has been insisting while we walk.  In recent weeks, we do appear to be trotting with increasing frequency and intensity, which I must say is a good sign, and we are now occasionally cantering one circle at a time.  There remains, however, not a jump in sight (cavaletti and tiny cross rails do not — I repeat do not — count, particularly at the trot).  I’ve begun spooking at inanimate objects, in the hopes that she will “punish” this behavior by making me work harder, but to no avail.  She only pats my neck and reassures me, as though she believes I am genuinely frightened.

I write, therefore, to implore you to urge my mother toward a return to normalcy.  Tell her that she can ignore my panting and labored breathing, it’s nothing really.  Tell her that I am fit as a fiddle.  I am well rested and ready for work.  Summer is around the corner, and we have horse shows to attend!  Hitch up the trailer, fill the haynets, polish the tall boots!  What on earth is she waiting for?

Very truly yours,
Tucker M. River

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>Tucker Explains the Wizard of Oz

May 16, 2011 6 comments

>So, I get to the barn on Saturday afternoon, very much looking forward to a nice ride outside.  I hadn’t seen Tucker in a couple of days, and the rain was holding off.  Perfect recipe for a great Saturday.  Couldn’t wait for some quality time with the best horse in the world. 

Just one problem.  As we exited the barn after tacking up, Tucker morphed into full-on, high alert, neon-sign-flashing-DANGER, drama-llama mode.  Okay, no problem, I’ll lead him down to the outdoor ring and get on there.  There was some construction happening and apparently all the loud noises were blowing his mind.

Little did I know what was in store for me.

We get down to the outdoor ring and I found myself having to hand walk my now-possessed beast in circles, which, at the time, was a lot more like flying a kite than leading a horse.  In his defense, there was a little more going on than your basic construction.  They were delivering big, pre-fab sheds on the end of a flat bed truck, and they were unloading directly in Tucker’s line of vision.

Finally, sick of staring into the whites of Tucker’s eyes and listening to him snort above my head, I decide to climb aboard.  After a few minutes of dancing and prancing, he settled down into a somewhat normal walk, though he continued to arch his neck, twitch his lips around and stare wild-eyed into the distance.

I decide to try and communicate.  Get his mind off his, um, troubles.  I head to the point of the ring farthest away from the sheds that are clearly going to kill us, and we do some spiraling in and out circles, some leg yields, and he eventually starts to relax and even stretches down a little.  He takes a big deep breath and I finally feel him starting to bend around my inside leg and start tracking up.  His back was relaxing.  Phew.  He’s finally back to normal. 

So, I ease him up into a trot.  OH MY.  He responds by stomping his front feet, shaking his head from side to side, and squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeling.  Uh… not exactly what I was expecting.  Okay, okay, okay.  Walk.  Just walk.  Calm down.  Please.

He walks and almost immediately settles back down.  I figure it’s a fluke.  We do a little more working walk and when I feel him getting bored to tears again, I cautiously ease him back into a trot.  Feet stomping!  Head shaking!  Squeeeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeee!  Oh dear lord.  Walk.  Please.  Walk.  Just… walk.

Me:  Um, Tucker?

Tucker:  Yeah?

M:  Mind explaining what the HECK is wrong with you?

T:  What’s wrong with ME?  What’s wrong with YOU?  It’s not safe out here you know.  We are in a very, very dangerous position.

M:  Didn’t realize that.  What exactly is unsafe about the outdoor ring?

T:  (He scoffs)  No, no, not the outdoor ring.

M:  Okay…. I’ll humor you.  Where is the danger, exactly?

T:  It’s the houses.  They are dropping houses.

M:  Oh, well, I really don’t think we need to worry about that.  They’re not going to drop any houses on you.

T:  You don’t know that! 

M:  Actually I kind of do.  There’s really no chance that one of those houses is going to fall on us.

T:  Not on my watch, that’s for sure!  But I can only do so many things at once. And I can’t watch for falling houses while we are trotting.  I mean what am I, a magician?

M:  I see.  So that’s why we can’t trot. 

T:  Now you’re catching on. 

M:  Since when do houses fall on horses or people?

T:  Haven’t you seen the Wizard of Oz?

M:  Tucker, there are no horses in the Wizard of Oz.

T:  MY POINT EXACTLY!  Horses are very intelligent creatures.  We don’t stick around when there are falling houses.  Dogs, lions, flying monkeys, that movie had everything except a horse.  And that’s because horses are way too smart to get distracted and wait around to have a house fall on their heads, so some filly can come along and steal our shoes.

M:  I see.  Let’s try trotting one more time okay?

T:  Squeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-eeee!

M:  *Sigh.*  Nevermind.

I don’t really think anyone would have believed me, except that when I got back up to the barn, I was explaining how the ride went to someone:  “Ugh, he was a NUTCASE today.  Every time I tried to trot, he’d shake his head and stomp his feet, and sq–” 

eeeeeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeee!”  He was then kind enough to demonstrate for us. 

Once again, my horse has valiantly saved me from the brink of danger.  Thank heavens I have him to protect me at times like these.  Quite sure I would be lying under a house somewhere otherwise.  And some strange girl would have stolen my shoes.

Categories: flat work, freshness, humor, Tucker

>Fluffy Gray Cat: Free to a Good Home

April 25, 2011 6 comments

>No, not really.  But when I got up at 6:30 this morning to discover what Sterling had done during the night, he would have been free to the first taker. 

It’s never a good sign when the first words out of your mouth in the morning are:  “What the #$%^* is THAT?”  It’s the kind of morning that only a pet owner can truly appreciate. 

At one point during the night I half woke up to the sound of a loud crash, but figured he was just tearing around the apartment like a crazed lunatic for no reason at all, as per usual, and had knocked over a picture frame.  Given that my usual one-hour drive home from my grandparents’ house took a solid 3 1/2 hours with traffic (including an entire hour spent creeping across a bridge), I was tired, so I did not get up to investigate.  Big mistake.

This morning I discovered that the loud crashing noise was Sterling knocking the screen out of the window, through which he spent the night carrying earth worms into my apartment.  Yes, I woke up this morning to find several HUGE slimy, filthy, stinking worms creeping and crawling around on my floor.  One of which he had previously ingested.  I’d have to say, on the list of “Worst Possible Ways to Spend the First Five Minutes of Your Day,” peeling earth worms off your carpet is right up there at the top. 

The cats of course spent these minutes trying to trip me and howling because the arrival of their breakfast was delayed during this process.  Which caused me to look up at them in complete and utter frustration, as I scrubbed worm guts out of my carpet, and ask of their desparately starving (overly plump) faces emploring me for food like the children who are actually starving on those info-mecials, “WHY do I even HAVE YOU?”  An hour later on the train, I thought to myself “Did I really spend the morning cleaning up worms?  How can this possibly be my life?”

I try to provide a nice environment for my pets.  Plenty of cushy pillows, cat beds, and comfy perches.  A ridiculously large collection of cat toys.  Things upon which one can sharpen one’s claws (of course, they still prefer my couch when I’m not looking).  Plenty of food (though they will tell you otherwise).  A nice clean litter box.  Regular grooming.  And THIS is the thanks that I get.  It really makes me question why on earth anyone would want a cat.  When I see their sweet little faces greeting me after work tonight, I’ll probably change my mind.  Until, of course, one of them does something else completely unnecessary and disgusting.

Anyone have any ideas for how to keep a cat away from a window screen?

Categories: cats, humor, life, Sterling

>The Things We Do for Love

April 6, 2011 6 comments

>There is nothing like treating a horse’s injuries to remind us of how much we love them.  So much, in fact, that we are willing to completely and utterly humiliate ourselves in CVS.

I plan to get some elasticon on Thursday, when the tack shop is open later, which I’ll use to make an extra large “band aid” over top of my regular gauze (not all the way around the hock, so as not to constrict the joint).  So, I just needed some supplies until then. 

So I found these at CVS (hoofpick included to give you a sense of scale):

´╗┐These actually fit pretty well over the injured area.  I don’t think they are sticky enough to stay on without a standing wrap over top, but hopefully they’ll stay in place beneath the wrap better than just a plain piece of gauze (which didn’t stay).

Speaking of which, it was looking a bit better today, although I’m not so sure that I want his hock to permanently have its mouth open like this.  While he is not a conformation hunter, I would rather this look a little prettier.  ´╗┐Still, it’s better than yesterday. No bleeding today.

Where was I?  Oh yes, CVS.  So, I get up to the counter with my three huge pieces of self-adhesive non-stick gauze, and hand them over.  The guy behind the counter looks at them, looks at me, and asks “Are you okay?”

“Oh, they’re not for me,” I explain, “they’re for my horse.”  He eyes me quizzically. “Well they do say ‘All-Purpose,'” I say, smiling.  He doesn’t get the joke.

“What’s wrong with it?” he asks.  He still hasn’t started ringing me up.  Apparently, he is concerned that he may have to call the Humane Society or something.  I can see his wheels turning.

“He cut himself,” I tell him, hoping that the inquisition is going to end and I’m going to get to leave soon, and actually make use of the self-adhesive non-stick gauze I am trying to purchase. 

“So, shouldn’t you like, call a vet or something?”  Suddenly, he is an expert in equine veterinary care.

“She’s seen him,” I sigh, slightly exasperated by having to defend myself to the CVS cashier.  “He had stitches, and then after we took them out, the wound split open again, so we’re just keeping it bandaged while it heals.”  Why am I now feeling the need to explain the entire situation to him?  Do I really think this kid is going to call the Humane Society?

At this point, he literally raised his eyebrows at me and sort of shook his head, and proceeded to ring up my order.  By the time I was back in my truck, I was already laughing and thinking about how I couldn’t wait to tell this story on the blog.  Judgy McJudgerson at the CVS probably isn’t a follower, but just in case: lighten up dude. 

I tried to get some cute pictures of Tucker tonight, but they were mostly fails:

The infamous headless horse
But this is my really cute face…
doesn’t this deserve another mint?
I hear the train a comin’
It’s rollin’ ’round the bend,
And I ain’t seen the sunshine,
Since, I don’t know when…

>Still (horse) Crazy after all These Years?

March 25, 2011 6 comments

>I commented a couple of posts back about what a horse-crazy little girl I used to be.  Upon a little further reflection, not much has changed.  When people come into my office and see the (multiple) pictures of Tucker, they inevitably say “is that your horse?” followed by “is that you?”  (I have the photo at the top of the side bar in a frame on my desk.)  At this point, my lawyerly demeanor completely changes and I coo something along the lines of, “Yes… that’s my baby….” 

In addition, I have a decidedly horsey brain.  Much the way someone who is bilingual might think in their first language, I think in “horse.”  The following are examples of things that I have actually thought to myself or said out loud to others, in very recent memory.  They have all caused me to stop and blink for a few minutes in disbelief… over how my brain seems to… translate… certain things.

  1. “It should only take me 5 minutes to get tacked up,” while deciding how long I can hit the snooze button while still leaving time to get dressed for work.
  2. “I need to wash these turnouts,” referring to my own barn jackets.
  3. “My stifle is killing me,” while walking to the train and realizing that the muscles in front of my right hip were sore (most likely from attempting to sit straight on my horse, for once).
  4. “I can’t wait to get home and loosen my girth,” after a particularly long day in a suit.  [When I had this thought, I actually rolled my eyes at myself so hard that I got a funny look from the person next to me.]
  5. “I’m short-coupled,” explaining why I prefer jackets and tops that end at the waist, rather than the hip.

I also count strides as I walk, sometimes in a 1-2-3-4 rhythm (to establish my pace, of course), and sometimes to help me “ride a line,” say, down the stairs, or between a set of double doors.  For example, the striding on the stairs from the train platform to the station goes as follows:  a steady four (from the door to the top of the stairs), a nice eleven (the first flight, where foot traffic flows well), and then either a direct two or a bending five (on the landing, depending on if I am on the right or left side of the stairs), to a quiet fourteen (the second flight, where traffic backs up).  How much do you want to bet that none of the other commuters know how many “strides” they need to fit in on the landing, and what pace they need?

I can’t be alone in this.  Please tell me that some of you do this too?

Categories: Horses, humor, lawyers, life

>Sometimes, Life has other plans

January 6, 2011 11 comments

>Remember how a few days ago, I talked about how I’m learning to be flexible?  Well, apparently the karmic forces read that post, had themselves a chuckle, and decided to mess with me.

I headed out to the barn, fresh from being totally inspired by watching Mr. Morris’s clinic, thinking I’m going to work on getting Tucker light, and forward, and supple.  Use my legs.  Allow my upper body to “accompany” the horse.  Allow his back to be free beneath me.  Haha.  Ha.  Ha.  (The karmic gods are grinning an evil grin, even now, as I write this.)

When I got to the barn, I was given the great news that we are getting a nice indoor bathroom installed in the indoor.  No more freezing our butts off in the porto!  This is excellent news.  What I hadn’t realized, though, was what this was going to mean for my ride. 

We walked into the indoor and were greeted by a large orange excavator, an SUV, a big hole, a cement pad, and a very polite man in coveralls in the corner, doing something with the cement pad.  We exchanged pleasantries (well, I did, Tucker was kind of dumbstruck), and I gave Tucker lots of time to look everything over before I mounted, gave him lots of pats, humored his snorts and big scared eyeballs, and once he finally took a deep breath, climbed aboard.  That’s when the fun started.

Mind you, I’m a little spoiled.  He doesn’t do anything really that bad when he spooks, so I was able to be amused, instead of annoyed or frightened.  Another horse could have seriously lost it. 

My first pass at the walk, Tucker was in full drama-llama mode.  I imagine his thought process went something like this:  “Mother, do not panic, but there is DANGER in that corner.  Fear not, m’lady.  I, your valiant steed, shall protect you from the Man, and the Hole, and the Large Orange Thing.  I have experience with these sorts of Things and will tell you that Large Orange Things have a tendency to Make Loud Noises, but do not be alarmed.  I shall move swiftly past this dangerous area, I shall not take my eyes off of these creatures, lest they should attack suddenly, and I shall escort you quickly to safety.” 

I gave him a pat for his “bravery” and we changed direction and did another lap of the ring.  Upon reaching that corner, we repeated the same pattern, with slightly less “high alert.”  More like “moderate alert.”  “Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more.  As I have done before, I shall carry you through this treacherous territory.  We shall face all manner of evils.  There is a Man, and a Hole, and Large Orange Thing with a Tendency to Make Loud Noises — but do not give up hope.  I, your brave and conquering hero, will not rest until you are carried safely past.”

I figured since he managed not to give himself a heart attack yet, we could probably attempt a trot.  We circled at the other end of the ring for a few minutes, where I had about 80% of his attention.  Not bad.  I figured we could try trotting down the long side.  “Alas, I fear the worst is upon us.  My rider has lost her sight.  She moves forward blindly, completely unaware that she is steering us straight into the belly of the beast!  I must take over the helm!”   We then started trotting sideways, across the arena.  Lovely half pass Tucker. 

I made a circle to see if we could possibly travel in a straight line past the corner of doom.  “She may have lost her mind entirely!  I’ve got no choice but to move as fast as I can past the Man, the Hole, and the Large Orange Thing with a Tendency to Make Loud Noises!  She clearly has no sense of the imminent peril we are facing!  Thank God one of us is a flight animal!”  We managed to trot around the corner, albeit at a pace a little quicker than what I had in mind.  Still, though, he was holding it together.

I stuck to the top half of the ring for most of the ride, occasionally venturing down to the bottom third but trying not to make too big of a deal.  At one point though, we were tracking left, approaching the death triangle from the short side of the arena, when the nice man working on the cement pad emerged from his SUV.  Tucker stopped dead in his tracks, head straight in the air.  “The Man is emerging from his cave of death and destruction!  What evil plan is he hatching now?  I mustn’t move a muscle, and perhaps he will move along and leave us unharmed.  My rider is oblivious to the danger, it is up to me now.  If I move one inch, there is a chance that the Man will use his Large Orange Thing with a Tendency to Make Loud Noises to drive us into the Hole, never to be seen or heard from again.  Well I’ve got news for him:  Not on my watch buddy!  What’s this?  She’s sending me on?  Has the WHOLE WORLD GONE MAD?!”

Given that he was actually twitching at this point I figured I better give him a break and stick to the top end of the arena for our canter work, staying on the far side of the few jumps that were set up.  Cantering circles at the other end of the ring went reasonably well, though at one point he almost fell over trying to turn left and look right at the same time, and accidentally crossing his front legs in the process.  I tried really hard not to laugh out loud at him.  I figured at this point we could probably risk cantering the top half of the ring.  “Alright mother, I’ve been quiet long enough but now you are just being unreasonable.  Have you totally lost it?  There is a MAN!  And a HOLE!  And a LARGE ORANGE THING with a tendency to MAKE LOUD NOISES!  Get it together will you?  You are going to get us killed!”  As we scooted across the middle of the arena with our tail between our legs, it occurred to me that perhaps I should return to the circle.  “Phew.  She seems to have gotten the picture.  At least now we have returned to the safe corridor, behind these wooden barricades.  They’re not much, but they’re something.”

I came back to a trot and did some little figure eights, looped around the jumps, anything to get him to focus for more than a nano-second.  He actually relaxed for a few minutes, even stretched down (!) when trotting away from the Center for Horse Torture.  So I figured we could canter left now.  Nice transition, decent canter.  Wonder if we can circle around the jumps?  “MOTHER!  Pay attention!  MAN!  HOLE!  LARGE ORANGE THING!  LOUD NOISES!  Must I constantly be in charge of everything?”  Okay so, maybe not.  We ended doing some more trot work so that his eyes could return to their sockets and he could resume breathing, and quit for the night.  I figured a couple of minutes of relaxation was a success, given the circumstances. 

While cooling out, he wandered over to the corner.  Reached his nose out and touched the excavator.  Peered down into the hole.  Put on his cutest face for the man in coveralls.  “Hi!  I’m Tucker!  What’s your name?  You sure do have lots of pockets.  Anything for me?  Hmmm?  I like mints.  Got any mints?  What’s that thing for?  Can I eat it?” 

If nothing else, he is certainly entertaining.

Categories: flat work, freshness, humor, Tucker

>Some Good Reads and a Friday Funny

December 3, 2010 6 comments

>I didn’t ride last night so I don’t have much to report personally… but we’re doing a clinic tomorrow with Mark Jungherr, so be prepared for what I’m sure will be a very interesting post recapping that over the weekend. 

There are a few things I’ve been reading lately that I find truly fascinating though, and wanted to share them with you.  Have you guys been reading these already?  If not, you should.

Linny and Sojourner Ride from Coast to Coast.  This blog is about a woman who rode from CA to NH on her horse Sojourner, while her partner rode alongside in the “support truck.”  The places she sees and people she meets along the way are really interesting, and the overwhelming generosity of strangers that you read about on this blog will give you a little more faith in humanity.  I found them when they were mid-way through West Virginia but have been going back and reading her posts from the start, and it reads like a novel.  She’s a beautiful writer and the story is truly one of a kind.

Love Leads A Reluctant Rider On An Irish Equestrian Adventure.  This is a series of articles at COTH written by a man who is not a horse person, and travels to Ireland with his new girlfriend only to discover that she’s one of those crazy horse obsessed individuals like us.  It’s very funny, and I think I’ve got a bit of a crush on him, to be honest.

Horses:  So Much More than a Hobby.  Stacy’s recent post at Behind the Bit about balancing horses, life, marriage/relationships, and work.  I’ve been following the comments and I’m starting to see some trends.  Very interesting stuff.  Makes me want to write a book about it… perhaps someday I will….

And for the Friday Funny, please visit Jane’s blog and watch Goofy:  How to Ride a Horse, which is a cartoon from 1941 that still holds up after all these years.  Those of us with horses will recognize certain sequences all too well….

Happy Friday!