Ahhh, Thanksgiving. Also Guitar Hero.

These are my two excuses for not blogging.

I am making duck for my extended Thanksgiving feast. My husband’s not so crazy about duck, so on Thursday we just had homemade rolls, mashed potatoes, tasty gravy, and ham. I also started my enormous duck prep – I took a duck apart, salted the legs and wings for confit, stuck the breast in the fridge, and made some excellent stock with the carcass, rendered all the extra fat. Yesterday I went to work and was way too tired to futz with the breast, so I waited til tonight.

I made this recipe, which was exceptional and highly recommended. I also cooked the confit tonight; I’m going to try to wait a few days before I reheat it. Supposed to be better if you can wait a bit. And the stock? Duck risotto, I guess; I just felt bad about letting Cersei eat such an expensive carcass.

Also, Graham brought the enormous TV and Xbox 360 down here with him. I am now ROCKIN OUT!! on Guitar Hero at night, which cuts into my blogging time. Tonight I unlocked Welcome to the Jungle and Pride and Joy. I WAILED on them. (On easy. Cut me some slack, I’ve been playing for a week.) Finally, my misspent youth, in which I listened to classic rock nonstop, is paying off. \m/

Aaaaand I took Dixie on a short trail ride today. Kelly rode her daughter’s (totally laidback BTDT) Quarter Horse, and a calm buddy was just what Dixie needed. We had a fairly major freakout about a white washing machine at the side of the trail.

I kinda thought she might come unglued, because you know how horses are about Strange White Monsters. She quivered and kept trying to spin to bolt and backing up snorting when I asked her to walk forward, but I just kept her pointed at the Monster. It was kind of a delicate dance between urging her forward when I thought she could do it and reassuring her when I thought she was about to completely flip her lid. It took several minutes, but I eventually got her past the Washing Machine of Death. The far side of it is covered in rust, so coming back was no problem, and then we went past it again and she was fine.

I always wonder if the horse isn’t just testing me after something like that, but I don’t think that was the case today. She was really terrified of the Maytag zombie. We got through it, though.

We all trooped past the first big lake, down to the second big lake (the skeet shooting lake), and grazed there for a long time. Then we headed back. A very short ride for the horses, but a big one mentally for Dixie.

More horse stuff soon, I promise! I’ve got a lesson tomorrow, and I feel pretty good about my legs. (I am sure this hubris is going to doom me, but we’ll see!)

Housekeeping: Vet came out on 11-25 and pulled Coggins, vaccinated for West Nile.

Addendum

I like to tell yall the weird “training techniques” I have learned from local horseowners, for a couple of reasons. One, I don’t look nearly so bad in comparison, and two, as a kind of sanity check for me. Some things (broken double twisted wire curb bits, and heavy shoes, and “action devices”) I have always instinctively known to be cruel and ineffective. But some other stuff didn’t seem correct when I first heard about it or saw it, but it didn’t immediately strike me as wrong.

I’ve seen lots of people, who, when starting a young horse, will yank its head up at the trot. Because it’s harder for the horse to buck if its head is up. This is counterproductive, right?

Anyway, it does make some part of me vaguely nervous for my horse to walk along with his head level. He’s entirely too polite and lazy to actually try to buck me off, but it just looks… abnormal. His head’s always been carried high, and all the horses I ride or see ridden carry their heads high. It never occurred to me that this was actually bad riding, although it sure seems blindingly obvious now!

Unwilling to confirm the experiment

No lesson yesterday – I cancelled it so I could sleep in, surrounded by boxes. I was just too tired to really concentrate and learn anything.

I did drag my ass out to the field and get on Champ for a little while, but I didn’t actually ride. My friends Kelly and Taylor were out at the field, and I just got on and let Champ follow them around and mug them for treats. They took “care” of my crew while I was out of town – Kelly fed them lots of dog biscuits and peppermints because they were obviously wasting away without my double handful of sweet feed a day. (They are such horrible beggars!)

Anyway, I did something pretty stupid yesterday. I gave everybody the last of this pelleted senior feed that Kelly’d given me. She gave it to me because the old mare she’d been feeding it to had choked on it. What did my old mare do last year? Choked on pelleted feed. DOH! So yesterday, Silky choked very mildly on it, but managed to clear it on her own. Last time she choked was horrrrible. Did I ever post about it? I think it was before I started blogging.

On to today! Today was not so auspicious. I forgot to put the sweet feed back in my truck, and I had to catch my very angry horse and ride him without any sugary bribes. He got back at me by running my knee into a tree as soon as possible.

I concentrated on riding with my legs in the correct position again. In return, Champ was very relaxed and carried his head level. I think he even engaged his hindquarters on the hills a bit more. I realize that this one-horse experiment isn’t actually proven unless I go back to riding the old way and see if he travels with a hollow back and a high head again, but I can’t bring myself to do that to him. :(

My stirrups are starting to annoy me. They’re hung a bit forward – not nearly as far forward as most “gaited horse saddles,” but they still encourage a chair seat. When I got back closer to the truck, I kicked out of the stirrups and rode with balanced legs. (Closer to the truck is very important. I am still not entirely sure I won’t just fall off, and if I fall off, my jerk horse is going to walk his happy ass back to the gate to his field, staying just far enough away so that I can’t catch him.)

I am thinking about breaking down and buying some riding tights. I am SO TIRED of my jeans ripping out. They fit ok, and they’re good jeans, but I just ride more than they can handle. Any recommendations for winter tights? Do I want the ones with the leather on the butt? This is going to be an internet purchase – there’s only one overpriced tack store around here that sells “english clothes” and I don’t really like shopping there.

Another epic fail!

What’s wrong with this picture?

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Look, here’s a closeup.

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Yeah, I kinda shot my truck. But not with a gun, I’m actually very very gun safety conscious! I accidentally shot my truck with an arrow.

I went over to my friend’s house and he was like “Look at this bow I just got; it’s totally badass!”

Me: “That’s awesome!”

Him: “You wanna shoot it?”

Me: “Hell yeah!”

I try to draw it and damn it’s hard as hell to draw a 40 lb bow. Waaaay harder than I thought it would be.

Me: “I don’t think I can pull this.”

Him: “Yes you can! PULL HARDER!”

My tomboy rage boils over and I pull as hard as I can and then slip and THWUNK shoot my truck. I burst out laughing and he was mortified and said he’d pay for the window. I’m not going to let him; I’m the one who a) wanted to shoot the bow and b) carelessly shot my own truck.

After shooting the truck we went off away from everything we cared about and I kept trying til I finally shot a tree. Bows are cool. Don’t point them at anything you care about. Hell, don’t point them within 45 degrees of anything you care about!

I think the Rangemaster sticker really makes the composition of the photo.

What just happened?

I’m going to Ohio to help Graham move back on Wednesday, so I’m trying to get my “practice” riding in early this week. I took Champ on a big long meandering ride through the woods. We trotted a bit at first, and then I decided I’d concentrate on keeping my legs in the right spot. Heels down, toes straight, legs back.

It still feels totally wrong. Getting my toes pointed straight ahead feels like I’m riding pigeon-toed. Keeping my heels down isn’t hard, but keeping them back under my hips makes me feel like I am about to poke my horse in the flanks. But I kept at it – I wrapped my calves gently around Champ and enjoyed the scenery and kept checking heels, toes, legs.

We wandered off into the trees on an old trail we take sometimes, and I wasn’t really thinking about much – looking around at all the new stuff I can see now that the leaves are coming down, and watching the dog, and being really happy that I have such a sensible barefoot horse and he doesn’t slip. There’s a lot of little ravines in the woods, with steep 45-degree slopes. They’re all fairly short, maybe 10 feet at the longest, and I just trust my horse. I point him at an obstacle and sit calmly and if he balks, it’s cause he can’t do it. He didn’t balk at all today.

Then I kinda noticed that Champ was doing something odd. He rarely balks at these little hills, but he usually rushes them. He’ll start down slow but then speed up on his way down, or he’ll want to surge up a hill.

He wasn’t doing that.

He was calmly slowly picking his way down the hills, and calmly slowly hauling us up them. There was one little hill that even I wasn’t sure about, and he kind of sat back on his haunches and slipped down a few feet then kept walking.

I had about 25% of my brain on autopilot, checking my heels-toes-legs, and about 25% was just checked out, watching trees and stuff, and the unoccupied part of my brain finally started to wonder if, maybe, my legs were helping him. Maybe even though I felt like my toes were about to jab his ribs and my calves were nestled in his loin, maybe I was actually balanced right and he didn’t have to rush us around before we fell?

Then we got out of the really woody part, onto the wide trails in the woods, and I noticed something else really strange.

Champ’s head was down. Not rolling peanuts, but definitely… level. He’s never carried his head level while I was riding him before. I never thought that was odd, either, he’s a TWH (loathe though he is to act like one) and they have high heads, period.

Then we stopped at a (clean) puddle and he dropped his head all the way and drank.

I decided he was about to die. He was in fact just dragging along on his last legs, trying patiently to haul me back to the truck before shuffling off his mortal coil. My horse has NEVER, EVER, stopped to drink on the trail. I always offer, when it’s a long ride or a hot day, but he’s never wanted to before. Head low + drinking = dying.

He perked his head up, alert but still rather calm, as Cersei came crashing out of the trees. Maybe he’s not dying?

We meandered back to the field. He stopped to drink twice more. He walked quietly with his head level, but his ears were perky – not pissed off or hurting. We stopped at his favorite spot to graze (the wide grassy trail where he ran over Cersei) and I let him graze for a long, long time. And I kicked my feet out of the stirrups. And eventually we rode the rest of the way back to the field, and I didn’t put my feet back in. It doesn’t feel natural to hold my legs like that yet, but it certainly feels right. I felt balanced.

I feel like a kid who finally got her balance on a bicycle and screwed up the nerve to take her hands off the handlebars and didn’t fall off and she’s flyyyyying.