Daily Reads

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The last few days have been ... long.

I've got an elder daughter who has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, bad enough now that the school is having to put together an IEP.  We've tried attending class, but within the first hour or so she breaks down in tears for an hour or more.  So she's staying home for now until we can get the PPT meeting set up, probably in early January.

Younger daughter has a bad cold/flu along with abdominal pain.  She's on her eighth day out of school.  I think at least part of it is feeling jealous of the attention her sister is getting.  But it's getting old, spending tons of time at the doctor's and the hospital, just to be told there is nothing really wrong.


So I'm thinking about stuff that makes me happy.  I've got a piano, though it isn't playable yet; my mother is going to get me a piano tuning/check up for sometime after Christmas, so soon.

The other thing I haven't had in my life for years that makes me happy is horses. I spent most of my childhood trying to convince my parents to get me riding lessons, but my father was quite adamant that "only the children of doctors and lawyers" learned to ride.  Which always seemed a bit weird since his father, admittedly the child of a judge, had not only ridden horses, but had worked out in Montana and Wyoming for over 10 years as a cowboy, after attending the Cornell Ag school.  My grandmother always said that if Grandpa had been alive I would have probably had my own pony by the time I was six or seven.  But he had died when I was only six months old, so no horses for me.

When I was 13 we moved and I only had one music lesson a week, there being no clarinet teachers in the area, the closest stable was walking distance, and the lessons cost the same or even less than the music lesson, and the neighbor who was a builder got his kids lessons there.  So I got to ride.  A year and a half later we moved to Galway and I took lessons for the next two years until I went off to college.  I took lessons for a year in grad school, and then again for a few months about 10 years ago, until I had a fall and cracked my tailbone hard enough that it hurt to stand or sit or move for several months.

At this point I'm creaky enough and fat enough that I'm not sure I want to get back on a horse, but I want to be around them, maybe learn to drive, which has always looked pretty fun.  I was never that good a rider, being not the most physically adept person out there, but I always got on well with the animals.

At my second stable we had a large dapple grey hunter, more draft than thoroughbred, named Lord Jim.  I remember going into his stall one day to tack him up for the lesson to find him lying on his side, doing a very good impression of dead.  I called his name and he flicked an ear and an eyelid at me, so that worry was dispelled.  Now I just had to get him up.  I called him again and walked up to him.  His ear twitched.  I poked his rather vast stomach with my boot.  The ear twitched again.  I poked harder.  Same reaction.  I gently kicked him, and got the "Oohh!, that's the spot! can you move a little to the right now?" look from him.  At this point the instructor came to see what was taking so long.  The instant she looked over the door he was on his feet looking guilty.  I have been since given to understand that this a sign that Jim liked me and trusted me, but I'd rather have had a little less trust, since it wasn't like I could physically pick the beast up.  On the other hand, it did mean that I could get him to do stuff that most of the other students couldn't, much to the instructors' surprise, since I wasn't that good.  When they'd ask how I did it, I'd look at them say I just asked Jim nicely.  He liked me, so he'd do it.

At my first stable my favorite was an outsize pony (14.3 or so) named Pivot.  There were days when he wouldn't do what I asked him to, especially in the beginning.  I can remember a frustrating five or ten minutes when I couldn't get him to canter on the correct rein for love nor money, and much to the frustration of the instructor.  She finally had me get off him so she could show me how to do it.  Pivot crab-stepped the entire way around the ring, and wouldn't even for her.  But again, he liked me, especially after that first summer.  My second summer there, I was usually in the first group lesson of the day, and I'd get him, because I was one of the few students who could go in to tack him up and not have him play lame.

I also remember one day watching the owner give a "lesson" to a very small child, a toddler really, whose parents just wanted her to have the experience of being on a real horse.  Even though the stable did have some real ponies, much smaller than Pivot, he was the owner's choice for this, and watching I could see why.  As he was led around the ring with this tiny child on his back, whose feet didn't even go past the saddle leathers, he was walking on glass.  He knew what he had on his back, and that he had to take special care of her.

We moved at the end of that second summer.  We were visiting two years later and I stopped by the stables to find out that the previous winter someone had been poaching in the state forest the stable abutted, and shot him in the pasture, thinking he was a deer.  I still think of him fondly after nearly 40 years.

Well, if they actually do sort out the tax situation and I don't have to come up with an extra $60 to $70 a week in federal taxes next year, maybe now's the time to get started again.

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