Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Learning Curves and Signs of Spring

One doesn’t have to be crazy to be able to endure the weather in the south in February, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The repeated assaults by the western blown cold fronts combined with balmy sunshine filled days leaves one wondering every day what to wear. It is amazing more folks don’t have perpetual colds. How the poor animals that do live outside in the changing elements deal with it all, I cannot imagine. I am sure that some don’t.

This past first week of February has been text book to this description, first roaring in with a terrible rainy cold few days which were then followed by a few days of bright blue sky and warm sunshine. Already the tease of spring’s arrival is being made evident. The best part is the ever increasing daylight time in the afternoon. Trees are beginning to bud tiny little future leaves and flowers, and the empty veggie garden is calling me to come get my hands dirty and plant something. We have seen the first scout of the Purple Martins and have gotten all of the nesting boxes ready and we now await the arrival of the entire returning flock.

Yesterday I noticed the first daffodil that has bloomed at the old trailer site where some folks named Blanche and her husband, Eddie, I think, planted row upon row of bulbs many years back. There are the daffodils, and paper white narcissus, and the little white bell shaped blooms with the little green dots around the petals. All of these were planted by some unsophisticated simple folks, who cared whether their yard in front of their very not new house trailer sat, looked pretty. And bulbs being what they are, have survived them and multiplied and each year now they remind me of these people and I appreciate what they did that marks the beginning of spring on this land.

It has been a good week of working the horses after a time off dealing with other stuff, like life. There were a few in the herd that needed a refresher on proper behavior but no real ground was lost and all are back in the working groove and continuing to learn. They are also beginning their spring ritual, shedding, not a lot yet, but my clothes and face bear the evidence that the changing light is triggering their bodies to let go of that long fuzz. A look at the weather report for tonight and another approaching possible snow/rain/cold front says they’d best hang on to being yaks for just a bit more.

Regular work has begun with Cistine, my soon to be four year old daughter of Joline. Cistine is still lanky and quite tall, at 17hh+, and has a long way to fill out and hopefully not any more upward, but is sweet and generally fairly quiet, for a teenager with the attention span of a half a nanosecond. Her days recently have been about learning to focus, primarily on me and my body language, working in hand on the lunge line. She had had time off as well for a few weeks and the other day I got her out to start again on these basic things. All groomed up and tacked with pad, circingle, and Portugeuse cavesson, off we went to the field where I work the young ones.

I could tell right off that there was a buzz in her brain, a bit of a squint to her eye when looking at me, and her focus could not be found, anywhere. It was like a bubble enlarging and getting ready to pop and there was a good breeze blowing and leaves were rustling giving the day a pretty high spook factor for even the solid ones, so I didn’t think it would take much.

I just did not know what the trigger would be, but with young ones I tend to go look for buggers to school at this stage, for me to learn more about what gets their goat and how they might react. The older I get the more of this stuff I do so that upon that fateful day when I tread into a stirrup to get on her back for the first time, I want to know what to expect, and I also want her to know what to expect as much as possible. So I was paying close attention to this time bomb ticking away at the end of my feeble cotton rope.

Things were ok up to a point and then it was time for her to enlarge the circle she was making around me and so I sent her away from me and then asked her to trot. This was the moment she had been waiting for. With enormous drama, she grandly leapt with the theatrics of a movie star, into the air, shaking her head, as all of Joline’s foals learned to do in a gesture of showing anger, impatience, or just enthusiasm. That would have been ok, a bit of over doing it, but the problem was that the loosely buckled on circingle was no longer just behind the withers, but had slid backward to her flanks, the forbidden and most personal, zone of most young mares.

Her eyes widened and the rodeo was on, and with the next moves she made, I know that there is no human alive who could have hung on, or would have wanted to have been there. More like “Beam me up, Scotty, and make it fast.” I was very happy to not be passenger at this point but suddenly got very busy with a very large, very agile, very panicking giant of a horse who was bucking and jumping into the stratosphere in a misshapen circle around me. I felt like I was the tether for a 747 doing the up and down exercises they fly to make potential space men feel weightlessness, and vomit, and all of this exploding energy was being held down with a gossamer thread in relationship, that and that fine new cavesson I recently had bought. Her sire’s genetics for being a jumper were showing in fine form and I couldn’t help but be amazed at her achieved altitude with each trip upward.

This all seemed to go on for several epochs but finally the silly thing stopped these bouncing antics and just stared at me quite perplexed now at her situation. I walked over to her and released the circingle figuring to reintroduce wearing it when I can actually make it fit and have it not slide backwards, and I dropped it to the ground.

The pad and the evil circingle lay there and suddenly became the most horrifying of unknown creatures to her, so that become our new schooling tool. I lead her away from it and then got her into a circle where she would have to pass very close to the villainous pile of leather. When she got close to it again she leapt sideways away from it, into my space, which was what I was waiting for and set her up for. I bellowed something to catch her attention and stepped sharply at her and surprised the heck out of her. Poor thing got her legs tangled up and down she went into the sand. Without panicking this time, she got up and stood staring at me again, this time with head quite low and eyes were softly blinking, this time in submission. She thought I had made her fall, and sometimes accidents like this are the best training thing that can happen. Her face was now one of acceptance and relaxation.

We quit on that and I placed the pad and, now ignored circingle, on top of her back and walked slowly her to the barn, her total focus on me and how she could figure out how to get back in my grace again. I gave her a carrot after I groomed her and put her away to think on it all.

The next sessions have been super but I will continue to pursue the scary things long before I will be ready to get on her, but waiting will be hard. Cistine is so supple and athletic, and has amazing big super gaits with crisp leg action. I got to see a whole lot of her athleticism in her airs above the earth episode, more than I really wanted to, but time will work the silly frolics out. Training is always ongoing and is a process, as is all learning of any type, as well.

On a different note, I spent some time doing some learning a couple of nights ago. I actually took a photography workshop/class with my favorite photographer, my husband Mark. Someone who had to reschedule for one of his classes left an empty spot, so I took it. In the years we have been married I have never sat down to learn anything from him about what all those dials and buttons are for on these new fangled digital cameras, even tho I have been on the sidelines at all of his workshops all over the place. The learning curve was too steep, I had thought.

We actually got together way back when, in art class at college, when I asked him advice on what type of camera to buy. It was back when film and darkrooms were how images were made and he was just out of the army where he had been an instructor of it all. Back then I took some rolls and processed them under his guidance, but when the digital era emerged, I quit trying and resorted to my cell phone as my camera. So it was quite a treat to sit and have him show me what the controls were and I look forward to learning more about it now. My intimidation of the digital realm has lessened and I got a better glimpse of how much this guy knows about not just taking the picture and printing and all, but what a fabulous teacher. Who would have thought it? It was a classic case of the cobblers’ kids having no shoes, but by my own fault.

Off to barn world to feed and batten the hatches for the incoming front. Hopefully it will be kind and gentle and return to the beginnings of spring soon.

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