Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hamsters vs. Horses

"I'll buy you a hamster!" I could hardly believe that phrase had come out of my mom's mouth. She despised rodents of any kind (even the cute ones) so what could have caused this change of heart? Possibly the fact that my horse, Trooper, had just thrown my nine-year old self off his back and then spent the next few minutes careening around the arena at speeds he probably hadn't reached since he was on the track, if even then.
Trooper was a usually mild-mannered, elderly Quarter Horse who preferred to spend his time watching the cars go by and mentally plotting his escape from the horse lot. He managed several outings, usually just as we were sitting down to Sunday dinner. His timing was nothing if not impeccable. I started riding at age eight, after a brief and best forgotten stint as a ballerina (I still don't like to wear pink) and after being headed off at the pass by my mom when I wanted to do gymnastics. Too dangerous she said, obviously horses were much safer. After a while of learning the basics, it was time to start going over fences. I had been practicing "horse" training at home with my dog. Pup was my constant companion after a visit to the dog pound when I was in preschool. Her mother was part Basset Hound and her father must have been Australian Shepherd. She was an odd amalgamation of Australian Shepherd coat and eyes on a Basset Hound body.

ph-13642 Whatever the combination, she was the best dog a kid could have. She would do anything for animal crackers, and I must say, she had great form over fences. We thought of sending this picture into a horse magazine I subscribed to. It had a column where a well-known trainer would critique pictures of  riders, but he didn't seem the type that would have a sense of humor so we never sent it. These beams were a good five feet apart, not bad for a dog with stubby little legs.

ph-13701I learned a lot of life lessons during the time I was riding. Things like hard work, putting the comforts of others (the horses) above your own, how to work with different personalities (equine and human) and to never, ever wear a white shirt around a horse because he will invariably blow his nose as you go by. My parents were right there with me all the time. I think being a horse show parent is just as much work, if not more, as being the rider. Dad was often roped into working the gate or being on jump crew, while mom went around with a rag wiping the dust off of everyone's boots or putting oil on the horses hooves.  Besides the local shows, we also made a number of trips to Albuquerque for the larger shows that would last for two weeks. We made a lot of great friends, and great memories, during those days. This blog is a bit different, but I came across a copy of Trooper's Quarter Horse registration papers recently and it brought back a lot of memories. That and this weekend has been so wet I didn't dare take the camera out, and I refuse to buy it any rain gear, at least for now.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Road Taken

DSCN7822-110912DSCN7675-110912DSCN7746-110912Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, oh wait, someone else already thought of that opening line. I had to memorize Frost's poem in sixth or seventh grade (I had the same English teacher both years so it's hard to remember exactly when) and every Fall those opening lines come to mind. It is very easy to find roads winding off and disappearing into a haze of yellow this time of year. But in a few weeks even that haze will be gone, and only the evergreens will be providing color along the roadside. Instead of the road dividing, as in Frost's poem, here there's always another bend to take, the yellow dividing line becoming camouflaged with the leaves. The trick is get the picture before the car(s) come roaring around the bend. Most of them are not thinking about Robert Frost or the leaves swishing under the tires but instead are focused on where they're going and how fast they can get there. I'm sure there were several drivers who thought I was taking their picture as they came around the curve, like some incognito law enforcement officer with a high tech radar gun disguised to look like a harmless Nikon camera. I stood in the cold for quite some time waiting for the single car that kept going by (I swear it was the same one each time) to get out of the frame, all the while expecting to hear police sirens no doubt responding to a report that a suspicious character was standing around staring into the distance. Then again, the red trees along the road made a sight worth staring at. But not all cars are photographic interlopers. I was so glad my camera was out when this truck came by. Instead of muttering under my breath as in the prior instances, this was one vehicle I was glad to see.