I found something I could ride

Something I ate: when, back in April, my husband and I took our trainer to dinner and asked about his ideas for getting a new horse, I think I ordered the fish.  Horse shopping wasn’t a new topic of conversation, as this is something most equestrians have opinions about, so we weren’t surprised to hear him suggest going to Germany. “The main thing,” he said this night, and not for the last time, “Is find something you can ride.”

How do you find a horse to try: while I was able to use my personal connections to find someone to look for a horse for me in Germany, looking closer to home was still easier. And where are the closer-to-home horses advertised? On Facebook, in a large, open group. Facebook has gotten some tough press lately, for its role in interfering with democracy and in facilitating genocide, but until we overthrow our social media overlords, cast off the shackles of our Amazon Prime memberships, and find a way to circumvent the authoritarian monopoly on online search, it’s what there is beyond word of mouth.

What I did beforehand: a day before my flight to Florida, I got a message from the agent who was supposed to show me the horse. She wanted to check if I was still coming. I said I was. She said the horse I had first contacted her about was no longer available, but she had a number of others to show me. There are a lot of reasons I can think of that would make a horse be no longer available, like injury or illness, or if it was already sold, or if the owner changed her mind about selling it. But to be honest I was annoyed. Peeved, even. I thought about cancelling my trip.

Why I went anyway: when I somewhat testily pressed the sales agent, she cheerfully provided me details about four other horses, all theoretically suitable for my purposes. I got over my peeved self.

Things that were not funny: at the sales barn, the fellow showing the horse had a German first name, and everyone knew him by his German first name, and no one said his last name because apparently no one felt they could pronounce it. This feels terribly American to me, as does most mispronunciation of names. Put this on our list of things we should do to be better, America. Let’s all learn to pronounce each other’s names. Starting with me. I can’t pronounce the German guy’s last name.

What I saw: the first horse the fellow with the German name showed me was a little chestnut mare, darker than a penny but a shade brighter than liver chestnut. When I saw her in the cross-ties, I noticed she had an unusual pattern of white on the side of her face, and wasn’t sure I liked it. But there is no such thing as a good horse in a bad color, so I set aside this impression.

She seemed like a quality horse with a professional rider sitting on her, but the reason professional riders exist is because they can ride anything and make it look like a quality horse.

What I wore: riding clothes, but no spurs.


What it is: riding is expensive and time consuming. Horses are simultaneously fragile and dangerous. I know of nothing more magical than the feeling of riding well, and also nothing more elusive.

Things that were funny: over the course of four trips to barns, I rode about 10 different horses, and it wasn’t until I sat on the little chestnut mare that I felt that I’d found something I could ride. My trainer’s advice, which had seemed at first to be so obvious as to not be important, turned out to be the best signal that I’d found what I was looking for. I tried to suppress the huge grin, but I felt right away that I had found what I was looking for. I just didn’t want to tell anyone yet. I didn’t even know the horse’s name. In fact, we left the barn without me finding out her name. I knew she was six, and what she was like to ride that day, but not much else.

Who went with me: the sales agent who did all the work finding horses for me to try in Florida, who was polite when I abruptly got off another horse I didn’t like, who laughed at my jokes, and who even got me the chance to try the horse I had originally wanted to see.

Why I bought this horse: other than being the one horse I tried that I really felt I could ride, she was the one that was fun without feeling inexplicably intimidating. Sure, they weigh 1300 lbs., but, as my trainer says, either you’re in charge or they’re in charge. And her face? Once I’d ridden her it seemed extraordinarily adorable.

Things that were sad: that other horse, the one I’d wanted to see in the first place? She was really nice, too.

A Letter to the Pedestrians of New York City

The umbrella you will lose anyway

Dear Citizens,
We can all agree that it was raining this evening, and lightning was seen from some parts of the city. At times the downpour was strong. Those of us who paid careful attention to the forecast may have been more prepared for the rain than those of us who did not.
Nevertheless, I would like you to consider giving up your umbrellas.
First, in the interest of public safety, consider the eyes that will go un-poked-out when you no longer stab passersby in the face. Give a thought to the unsprained ankles dangling there on the legs of the people who will no more need to dive out of your, unseeing way. Think on the empty lost-and-found shelf of your favorite restaurant, the library, and the subway, no longer required to store your forgotten umbrellas.
Next, know that your second hand is henceforward free! Now you can carry your lunch, your handbag, your gym bag, your groceries, your WNYC bag full of library books, your briefcase, your tool box, and your huge and heavy shopping bag full of new sheets from Bed, Bath & Beyond.
You will not dissolve in the rain, New York. Lift your eyes from the pavement and let the raindrops land on your eyelashes. Allow the rain to run down your cheeks. Feel the mile traveled by earth’s evaporated water from the surface of the earth up into our atmosphere and back. Welcome those raindrops back to earth.
You will not dissolve.
Yours truly,
New New Yorker
(Recent Transplant from Seattle)

Better Blogging

This is my 200th blog entry. Starting in late August of 2009, I began this blog to document a trip I took to Italy with a group from the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University, fulfilling some international electives required for the MBA program. In the 915 days since I started, the longest gap was 139 days, in early 2010, probably due to being busy finishing my degree. Discounting this gap, I am posting at a rate of about once every four days on average.

In which I am handed
a lovely leather case for
my diploma, which arrived
in the mail about 4 months later
My most viewed entry was a post I did last April, about how I learned to ski. It has been found by readers 238 times. Most of my posts are seen by about 20 readers, and Facebook drives most of my traffic (followed by Twitter).
I have written about travel, cooking and eating, pets living and pets dying, growing up in the suburban mid-west, and parenting. The label “dogs” is attached to 22 posts, but a search on my blog attaches it to 39 posts. Most of the expert advice around building a readership of loyal followers encourages a blogger to have a tight focus on one topic (indoor gardening, gluten-free cooking, atheist parenting).  One assumption is that if you’re a blogger you want as many readers as you can get, and if you want to learn about the finer points of using analytics and search-engine optimization, there are folks with lots of advice for you.
As for me, the blog is a place to send friends who want to know what’s up and it is a way to get myself writing while I figure out what I’m doing next. Beyond common sense rules, like “be interesting,” and “respect other people’s privacy,” I only have a few. Rules have to make sense. They have to be enforceable, broad and logical. They should be necessary, and sufficient. You should have as few rules as possible. If you have to break a rule, you should know why you did.
  1. Post a picture, preferably your picture. It anchors the text. No more than three pictures.
  2. Keep it short. If it’s a long story tell it in two parts.
  3. Include a link. It’s the internet. You’re supposed to.
  4. Be regular, but no more than one post a day.
  5. Say something.  Reposting without commentary is what Twitter is for.
200 posts later I’m still not sure why I do it.

Safety Patrol

I try to get out for a walk every day.  There is an almost-three-mile loop from my front door on a country road with neither stripes nor shoulder.  The town speed limit is posted as 30 mph. This is loosely interpreted as whatever speed you will go.  Most cars seem to be aware of me and my leashed dogs, slow a bit (though never a lot), and give us room.  I have only had two scary encounters so far, the first happening during the first week of school.  It was a woman with a blond ponytail who drives a black BMW SUV and since she was on the phone she never did see me or my dogs. The second was this week, when the FedEx ground truck went by so fast Captain dove into the drainage ditch at the side of the road and cowered there, crouching.   
I do see other walkers, mostly women, sometimes with dogs and sometimes chatting and walking vigorously in pairs. There is one young woman who walks down the middle of the road, and who was not wearing shoes the first two times I saw her.  She has long, straight brown hair and bangs and large eyes that don’t look at you.  She wears clothes I can only describe as completely ordinary. But then she doesn’t have shoes on. With her is a dog that I would call a tan and white pit-bull mix. It wears no collar, and she carries no leash.  We saw them the very first time we went for a walk. The dog is out of control but friendly. The woman doesn’t really talk, not even about the dogs.  I gave her a nickname: Gandhi, pronounced “Candy.”
Two days ago, the dogs and I headed off to check the road-kill (which is another story completely), but found the road was blocked for repairs.  Yesterday, I passed the repair crew, and we exchanged smiles and nods. Cherry sneezed at the smell of the hot asphalt, and I got a chuckle out of that. But that day, we headed down the road past the stable with the intention of turning back at the half-way point.  I was thinking about the Haves and the Have-Nots on this road (which is also another story completely), when the vet pulled out onto the road next to me after a call to the stable.  He pulled up alongside of me and warned me, with concern in his voice, to look out for a pit-bull which is being walked loose and has been allowed to chase horses. “Don’t want it to be a problem for you.”