Saturday, September 8, 2012


Flew to Colorado on Thursday to attend the Parelli Horsemanship Summit that takes place annually about this time. Usually my neighbor Laura and I drive out but Laura couldn't make it this year. I've gotten involved with the Parelli nonprofit, Parelli Education Institute, which is a new organization and this was going to be the first opportunity for the team to get together, so I didn't want to miss it. Fortunately, I was able to get another team member to split car and hotel expenses with me, so for the first time I flew in rather than drive. My Southwest flight to Albuquerque left Oakland at 6:20 a.m. which, as anybody who knows me can attest to, is quite a stretch for me. I did spend the night in Oakland at Hotel Hell so I could leave the car there and catch the shuttle. Next time I am spending the money to just spend the night at the Hilton!

It was a gorgeous morning to fly but after several nights of sleep deprivation, as I had a lot of work to get caught up on before I could leave, I pretty much slept through the flight. I did take a moment to snap a picture from the window. The flight was less than half full so I had the row to myself which made it a lot easier to sleep!

I caught up with Becky at the car rental station and we took off in our thankfully upgraded Malibu. I had mapquested the route but Mapquest is letting me down this trip (it took me to the wrong hotel in Oakland, although I should have stayed at the one it took me to). There were a few key steps in the journey that were obscure to say the least and the 4-hour drive took more like 5 1/2 hours. We did get to see a lot of New Mexico that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.

Got into Pagosa Springs just in time to check into the hotel and head to the team Meet & Greet at the Springs Hotel downtown. Pat and Linda Parelli were there to meet us and give us the pep talk. Pat can be pretty goofy but when he gets serious about something he can be downright inspirational. The team seems like a great group of people and we all left with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Had great warm, actually hot, weather and blue skies for Friday. The Parelli Education Institute team was introduced mid-day so we all got to go into the arena. I worked in the booth during lunch but still managed to wander around to shop for horses and accessories. Bought some accessories, no horses although as usual I was tempted. Specially since there was one named Cowboy. Also a yearling Dexter lookalike that I think Laura needs. I'm torn between getting the very cool Atwood Ranch horse with the great foundation and breeding, or getting a rescue horse. I guess I just need to bump up my income level and get both. Along with leisure time to spend with them. And with Cowboy who is still very much in the picture.

Cowboy seems to be feeling pretty frisky actually. He and Dexter went to spend the weekend at Laura's while I'm away as it was easier for Laura to feed them there. She thought, anyway. Cowboy decided that he was homesick and, the first morning when Laura fed them, went into a frantic tizzy in the paddock. Laura decided to take him to the arena and let him move his feet a bit, but Cowboy figured, why wait until we get to the arena? Why not move my feet right now? And why wait for that human? My lovely Parelli-trained horse ripped the rope out of Laura's hand (actually, she had the foresight to just let go of it) and took off through the barn and into the pasture where he had a bucking frenzy. That got Dexter upset and he started off on his own gymnastics. The reason Laura didn't come on this trip is that she has an elderly mare that she didn't want to leave alone as she is very frail (the mare, not Laura), and now there were 2 insane geldings on the property potentially causing a lot of upset to that mare.

She did catch up to Cowboy down by the arena and made him move his feet quite a bit faster than he had in mind for a bit. Once he settled down, she moved him and Dexter back to my house, figuring that since she had now spent over half an hour on the project, it would actually be faster to feed them in familiar surroundings rather than deal with their anxiety about being away from home. Apparently they are both satisfied with this and feeding time has gone back to being the pastoral ritual it usually is.

Back to Colorado--today was cloudy and much cooler, but who can complain when you are in Colorado with a bunch of horse nuts? One of my nonprofit activities was to take a survey around to the captive audience standing in line at the sole coffee vendor and get them to fill it out. Not usually something I'm comfortable with but it went fine and I spent way too much time talking to people and not enough survey-taking.

I know that the reason I am not comfortable asking people to do this because, in Parelli-talk, I am a Right-Brained Introvert and much prefer to avoid interaction that could lead to any level of conflict or discomfort. The concept was originally developed to figure out your horse's "horsenality" type so you could get strategies to deal effectively with him. (That's why Laura took Cowboy to the arena--he is a Left-Brained Extrovert and needs to move) The Parellis do acknowledge that some of the work they did to develop the Horsenalities is based on the social styles work done on humans--any HP alumnus will be familiar with that one. In that testing, I am an Analytic Analytic--in other words, super-geek. I love all this type of analytic work that puts people and horses neatly in little boxes that define them. So tidy. But, as Pat pointed out today, determining your or your horse's type is a TOOL to give you STRATEGIES, not an EXCUSE as to why you can or can't do something! I believe that's why the social style work done by my employer turned out to be something of a bust. Everyone wanted to know their personality type, and then used that information to vigorously defend their every action.

Anyway...back to Colorado was fun and productive. It's just about time to wrap it up and get some shuteye because tomorrow will be a long day. Last day of the Summit, and we need to head back to Albuquerque to spend the night, hopefully without getting lost, and then fly back home early Monday (flight is at 7:20 a.m. which when you take the time difference into consideration is the same time that I left Oakland on Thursday). So that's it for now.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Life Lessons from a Broken Lawnmower

It's 2 pm and I'm showered and shampooed. I smell pretty good (at least I think so). I've had lunch and am sipping a glass of ginger ale. Quite a change from a couple hours ago.

I had planned to go Horse Expo today. Tomorrow and Sunday I'm enrolled in a horse clinic so today was the only day I could make it. But it's been a hectic week and there are many tasks still undone, and with the weekend booked, this is the only day to get things done. The most pressing item on the list is mowing the grass, which is getting to the "fire danger" stage. So I regretfully decided to skip Expo and all that glorious shopping in favor of mowing grass. Very regretfully, as mowing causes my wrists to go numb and my allergies to flare up, not to mention that it's just a dirty, hot, miserable job.

Side note: I've been following Loral Langemeier (aka "The Millionaire Maker") and she doesn't even want to talk to you if you clean your own house, and I suspect that mowing your own acreage falls into the same category--as a business owner, you should be spending your time on more important things, and outsource the housecleaning-type of work. So I have been pondering hiring out all the heavy-duty outdoor maintenance to the neighborhood "guy", Alberto. Alberto does so much work for everyone around here that one neighbor suggested renaming the area to "Albertoville".

I pulled out the lawnmower and filled it with gas, which left just a tiny bit of gasoline in my 5-gallon can. I primed it and pulled the cord. Cord refused to be pulled. Completely locked up. And I've been bragging about how reliable that lawnmower is, too. I took the housing where the cord resides apart but didn't see anything obviously wrong (who am I kidding? I don't even know what I was looking for.).

Life lesson #1: Don't waste your last resources (gas in this case) on something you are not sure is going to work.

After sulking for a bit (because by then it was too late to head for Sacramento for Horse Expo anyway), I pulled myself together and decided that I must deal with this. I hear that all habits can be broken over a period of 3 weeks, so I've decided to break the procrastination habit, and here was an opportunity. If something is broken, you get it fixed, right? So I optimistically called the local repair place only to be told that they are backed up for about five weeks, and from the symptoms it sounded like the mower was dead anyway.

Not quite ready to accept their diagnosis, but clearly not able to get the machine repaired in a timely fashion, I determined the next options were to find Alberto, to borrow a mower, or to rent one. Alberto, who is normally working somewhere around here, was nowhere to be found. I don't like to borrow things with moving parts since I seem to deliver the kiss of death to them, so I called the local rental place and was able to reserve a high-weed mower. At the rental place, they brought out the monster machine and went over all the operating procedures (I bought the insurance just in case). After making sure it was full of gas, they went to load it on the truck, and it turned out the blade was stuck on "on", so it shredded part of their ramps when they tried to load it. Clearly a safety issue. They found another one and loaded it, and I made it safely home and was able to unload it and get it started without incident.

Actually, the machine made mowing much less onerous than with my mower, because it was self-propelled, oblivious to gopher mounds and uneven ground, and didn't spit the grass out the side to aggravate my allergies (I don't know what it did with the grass. Not my problem). I won't go as far as saying it made mowing a joy, but it sure was easier.

Life Lesson #2:  The right tools make the job easier and the results better.

After about half an hour, the thing ran out of gas. When they switched machines at the rental place, apparently nobody checked the gas level. I put the last tiny bit of my gasoline in it, crossed my fingers, and prayed that we would make it through. See Life Lesson #1.

Since the mowing was going so well, I continued on to the grassy area in back of the house that I hadn't really planned on mowing since my mower couldn't possibly handle it, and finally, I am ready for fire season. Assuming we don't get some unseasonable rain that makes the grass grow all over again.

I got the mower loaded back on the truck (I was worried about that but it went smoothly) and headed down the driveway to return it. I reached the end of my driveway at exactly the same moment that Alberto drove in to my neighbor's driveway. Sheesh--where was he 3 hours ago?

Life Lesson #3: Sometimes it's best to wait awhile, and the solution will just show up. I just wish I could figure out how to reconcile this with "Don't procrastinate".

So I have spent many many aggravating hours on this issue. I have spent money renting equipment that I still had to operate. I still have a broken lawnmower. There is billable work waiting to be tackled, and I need to spend some time on business development.

Life Lesson #4:  Loral Langemeier is right.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday Super Ride

Have to admit I have zero interest in football so it was a good day for a ride since the trails were deserted. Cowboy was excited to hit the trails and was ecstatic to discover himself at Pt Reyes instead of at a riding lesson! He was a champ and was brave in places he is usually not brave. The weather was beautiful starting out, although toward the end of the day it got overcast and breezy. We went out Horse Trail at Pt Reyes, which is one of our usual routes, varying it slightly by going through Sky Camp. At our lunch stop at the top of the hill, we were visited by a bold butterfly who lighted on Laura, then on Dexter, and finally landed on Cowboy, who promptly and rudely swished it with his tail. It survived though, and came back to buzz Cowboy's face, in a fluttery sort of way, in an obvious act of contempt and defiance. It was camera shy though, dodging all my efforts to capture the moment with the iPhone.

On our way back down the hill, with Cowboy leading the charge, we suddenly came to an abrupt halt as a bobcat crossed our path about 20 feet ahead of us. We were able to follow its progress as it casually retreated into the bushes. Fun to watch, and we were glad we encountered it instead of one of its much larger cousins!  We also spotted several deer, and the great blue heron who seems to have taken up residence in the parking lot, providing lots of entertainment for the park visitors. The horses are surprisingly nonplussed by an enormous bird swooping around the trailer.

Back home, we unloaded the horses at Laura's, and Cowboy was pressed into duty as a pack horse to help bring all my "stuff" back to my place. He's getting pretty good at this and really enjoys carrying the hay bag back as he can reach back and grab a snack along the way. It frees up my hands for important tasks like smacking him when he tries to pull away from me to grab grass.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Blog Post

I'm trying to set the blog up in Facebook so this is a test!

Happy New Year!

It's the start of a new year and let's all hope for some improvement over 2011! Although I personally can't really complain too much. Everyone is healthy, business is pretty good, and I'm getting to ride. I know we need rain desperately, but I sure do love the dry weather for riding! It makes poop-scooping a lot more agreeable, too. 

With the way the holidays have been falling, we have been able to get to Pt Reyes on weekdays that are not holidays, and that means that we have gotten to ride the Bear Valley Trail 3 times--day after Thanksgiving, day after Christmas, and today, the day after New Year's Day. This is just such a great trail, it's really a treat to have a chance to use it.  Last week, we took Bear Valley Trail to Glen Trail, and took that one up the mountain and headed to Glen Camp, which we have never been to, so a change of scenery. We do so much riding at Pt Reyes that there aren't many trails we haven't hit--although there are a few of the more challenging ones that we have yet to try.

Today we took Old Pine Trail up from Bear Valley Trail to Sky Trail, another new adventure for us. Nice trail, 2 mile with a good climb up the hill but not too scary for us timid types! Then down Sky Trail to the meadow where it meets with Woodward Valley Trail. Good lunch spot! The boys think so, too. Then up Sky Trail to Horse Trail and back to the parking lot using our usual route. We spotted a big bobcat just before we got to the Morgan Horse Farm--those are fun to observe, and we're glad they aren't a larger feline species!

Seems like folks are starting to recognize us on the trails--apparently we are the crazy women who ride with halters and let our horses eat grass on the trail. We think there are worse reputations we could have!

Got home pretty early, as this route was shorter than the usual one we take. Since we use Laura's trailer, all my stuff has to be schlepped back to my place. Cowboy has to do his part by carrying his saddle, and I've started asking more of him by hanging his hay bag on the saddle. Being a good little Parelli horse, he is not concerned about this, and in fact has discovered that it makes quite a handy little "take-out" container.

I signed up for a lesson with Ellen Eckstein, a dressage instructor who used to work with Tom Dorrance, at the end of January. Laura will be away at a conference, so I will actually be hitching up my idle horse trailer, loading my horse in it, and hauling him myself. That almost never happens! Laura and I usually go riding together, and she has a much nicer rig than mine. So mine has sat unused for a good long time. I had to wash the moss off of it, and it needs to go in for service as some of the lights don't work and I'd like to have the wheel bearings checked. I also need to work with Cowboy as he does not like my trailer. He doesn't mind going in it but he does NOT like the divider being closed, so that's what we'll be working on for the next few weeks. He knows he will be going alone in that trailer and he much prefers the buddy system for trailering. This will be a good opportunity to address the problem, which I've been conveniently able to avoid for a good long time.

Happy New Year to all, and be sure to work on making those dreams come true in 2012!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lesson Time

This has been one heckuva week, trying to plan work and personal lives around a day playing hooky to take a riding lesson in a town (theoretically) 2.5 hours away.

On Wednesday, 11/9/11, we loaded up the horses in time for an 8 am departure from Sebastopol to our Colleen Kelly lesson in Gilroy which is, according to Mapquest, 2 hours and 22 minutes away. Mapquest has apparently never made the trip anywhere near the vicinity of commute hour. We made good time until we hit Oakland at a little before 9 a.m.. Supposedly this is after the morning commute, but somebody forgot to notify the rest of the automotive community, and we did a slow crawl all the way south to San Jose and the merge with 101. Three hours later we arrived at Rancho Ruiz just north of Gilroy, still well in advance of our appointed hour of 1 pm. for our lesson. The weather in the North Bay has been brisk and cool, so we wore our winter clothes, but in Gilroy it seems that Indian Summer is lingering and the temp hit the 80s. The horses have their full winter coats and we were in long sleeves so it was a very warm day indeed! But the facility is really beautiful, designed by an architectural team from Oregon specializing in stable/landscape design. I think I may have found my dream job! Check out

The horses had taken the trip very well--we love our ponies! I have gotten Cowboy a slow-feed hay bag as he can go through a haybag in record time, and he definitely does not appreciate the gesture. The small openings in the bag cause him to slow down his consumption and it caused him some consternation. We caught him pulling his tie rope through his Blocker tie ring and sneaking around the trailer to steal Dexter's hay. But they were nice and relaxed and happy in their surroundings, which certainly made the lesson a better experience.

Laura got her lesson on Dexter first. Her concern was Dexter's odd "skipping" gait and his reluctance to move forward. Colleen's focus is on "rider biodynamics" so she assessed Laura's riding posture first, and then moved on to Dexter's movement. What I mostly got from the lesson is that we are way over-analyzing the horse issues and sometimes you just have to get after them a bit. Colleen did emphasize tapping the horse's shoulder, not the rump, to get the horse to move out, and soon Dexter was moving nicely forward in response to the tapping. Colleen is from Australia and is very extroverted--she pointed out that at one point Dexter discovered that he has a butt, and that now he must use it! I'll say one thing--this is really a one-hour workout and you get your money's worth.

After Laura and Dexter were done, it was time for Cowboy and me to take our turn. My concerns were that Cowboy is my tenth horse, and that makes 10 horses I've owned that work off the forehand rather than the hind end, and maybe it is not the horse that is the cause of my never achieving a flying lead change. I was also concerned about his saddle fit issues and what I may be doing to contribute to it. Colleen focused on the flying lead changes and assured me that we would achieve it that day. Wow! After 40 years of trying....She also went into some detail about the bit I was using (a thick French link mouthpiece recommended and sold by Parelli)--apparently this is a popular bit with larger horses with wide mouths, but not appropriate for smaller mouths (she referrred to Cowboy's mouth as a "teacup" mouth), and recommends a very inexpensive loose-ring sweet iron snaffle sold by Stateline Tack. Cowboy does tend to fuss a lot with the French link bit, and I do have another bit very similar to the Stateline bit that I intend to try when I have 5 free minutes. Then she recommended abandoning the rope reins in favor of leather (much easier to make subtle adjustments), and then we shortened my stirrups A LOT. She had me trot and canter along the rail, and disengage the hindquarters so that we were moving diagonally across the arena toward the opposite rail. I would have sworn we had this move down, but it was way harder than I would have thought and we kept getting crooked. To correct this, she had us go off the diagonal into a circle--not an intuitive move, but designed to get the correct bend and flexibility. The idea was that when we reached the opposite side, we would do a fairly fast change of direction, so that if we were moving from right to left diagonally across the arena, when we reached the left fence, we would start circling to the right--forcing a lead change from left to right. Sounds good in practice but really hard to do! I kept getting my hands too high so what with correcting my hand height, the newly shortened stirrups, and continued crookedness, we never did achieve a flying lead change, but boy did I learn a lot. I have a western saddle, and I kept getting the reins snagged on the horn. I was not adjusted to the short stirrups, so when Cowboy would slow down abruptly I felt I was going to catapult over his head. But, the fact that she was asking to accomplish so much actually made me feel much better about my riding ability since she would not have been asking for these fairly complex moves if she didn't think we were capable of achieving them. After an hour of this, Cowboy and I were both dripping sweat (did I mention the temp was in the 80's?). We were allowed to set up a video camera so there is a clip from the video here. (I had to compress the file to upload so it looks like the quality is seriously compromised). One useful bit of info that Colleen imparted is that the preferred libation for riding is gin and tonic rather than beer as the gin and tonic tastes good even when warm and the beer does not! Who knows what you will learn at these events.....I also got caught red-handed (red-footed?) in my relentless and mindless kicking of my horse. Feedback--DO NOT kick your horse with your heel! One nudge with the mid-calf or with the knee, and if you don't get a response, go to the crop/whip. The horse should respond to leg pressure, and if you keep after them with the leg, it is just annoying nagging.

We were pretty tired as we headed out just before 4 pm and put out good thoughts for a speedy trip home. Alas, not to be. We got onto Hwy 880 at San Jose and immediately traffic slowed to a crawl. This continued, with speeds mostly at 5 mph with occasional bursts of dizzying 35 mph, all the way up the East Bay until just before the Richmond-San Rafael bridge almost 3 hours later, when we finally got clear roadways. We had left the trailer windows open so the horses could get maximum air flow and were praying that we would not have 2 horses suffering from exhaust fume poisoning by the time we got home. They took the whole trip in stride (did I mention that we love our tolerant ponies?) and we finally pulled into the driveway at just after 8 pm.

Since we got back it has been nonstop work, but it is now Friday night and although I still have work to do, I don't have any appointments and it isn't supposed to rain tomorrow, so I am crossing my fingers that over the weekend I can try to put to use what I learned on Wednesday.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Been awhile...

It's been busy and I'm surprised to see just how long it's been since the last post. Plenty of work (mixed blessing)

Still working on the saddle fit but with the help of the Parelli saddlemakers, there are vast improvements. Some subtle changes in the shimming pattern and paying more attention to the way I ride have at least stopped the rubbing and he seems to have more back and shoulder freedom. Saddle still seems to sink in the front and wobble in the back though...but the horse seems happier and I'm not getting many offers to buck anymore.

Yesterday we hit the trail to try avoid the terrible rain we heard was coming today. Ironically, it did not rain today but it poured late yesterday. Laura even forced me to get up early to get a head start to beat the weather. It was pretty cool and we got some sprinkles but we did get pretty lucky with the weather. I don't know if it's the change of seasons or something else, but the wildlife was out in force at Pt Reyes yesterday. We were met in the parking lot by a heron who apparently was looking for the Morgan Horse ranch.

There were also deer hanging around, which didn't used to be unusual but a couple years ago there was a movement to eliminate the non-native white and spotted deer, and since then, deer have been in short supply. They were back yeaterday, though, and we even spotted one of the lucky white deer escapees on our way back at the end of the ride.
We kept our eyes open for bobcats and coyotes, which we have spotted before and always like to see, and hoped we didn't spot any of the larger carnivores that live in the park (here kitty, kitty, kitty...). No sightings though, and it it was an uneventful ride to Horse Camp. Horse Camp closes for camping at the end of October, to Cowboy's relief. During the camping season, it's a bustle of activity and the hubbub gives Cowboy the vapors. Thankfully, all was very quiet and we rode through with a minimum of drama. We did spot a doe napping on a knoll in the middle of camp as we headed toward the restrooms, which we were hoping were open but were padlocked shut. But as I was checking out that situation, Laura spotted a fox lounging about behind the bathrooms. This was a new event--we know there are foxes locally, including some that live in our backyard, but we have never actually spotted one during our rides and in fact, I've never seen one at all. We were very quiet so as not to frighten him (her?), but soon it was obvious that the fox was unconcerned about having us so near, and in fact let me circle him quite closely with my iPhone camera. It seemed pretty healthy so I'm hoping it's placid nature and hanging around in broad daylight wasn't a result of being rabid!
We finally left him and got to Five Brooks, where the bathrooms were open, and the fox and deer were both still in their spots when we got back about 15 minutes later. Still unconcerned. Obviously the fox could tell our horses were not into fox hunting. He did finally get up and mosey away.
The sky was getting darker and we trotted a good part of the way back, making the horses grumpy as we usually let them do a lot of grazing along the way. Good thing we hustled, though, because the rain started coming down when we were about 50 feet from the horse trailer. The horses never got disrobed so fast! I actually had Cowboy loaded before we remembered the shipping boots, and I will get no points for safety since I put his boots on him while he was in the trailer, with me crouched under his belly. Good thing we have nice horses! It was a wet ride home but we still managed to get them back in their paddocks and fed before it really started dumping. I did have to go shovel some trenches in the downpour though, to keep their paddocks above water, and actually got a lot of water INSIDE my muck boots. They got to dry out in front of the heater overnight.

On Wednesday we are heading to Gilroy for a Colleen Kelly lesson on rider biomechanics. Colleen Kelly is a dressage judge who lectures and teaches on rider biomechanics and has hooked up with the Parellis. Rider biomechanics is the science of natural riding position and analyzes a riders posture and position to improve performance. I'm hoping that in my 1-hour lesson she can help with getting Cowboy even more comfortable with the saddle, help me keep from getting sore during rides, stop bracing in my stirrups and figure out why I have never ever been able to get a horse to do a correct flying lead change (I've gotten changes in the front legs but not the back so I end up with a crossfiring horse). I guess that's a tall order for one hour but let's see what this gal is made of!

Well, it's late (even later than usual with the time change) so I better call it quits.