dancinghorse: (connecting)
A little randomosity first, then the neep we're all here for.

If you're on Goodreads, Tor is giving away 14 copies of House of the Star. The window for getting yourself into the draw is open until October 15th. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] janni for the tip! I wouldn't have known. Though I know I'm being flown to Denver next Thursday to hang with independent booksellers, and the week after that, a filmmaker is coming to make a book trailer staring--how not?--the horses. All fingers, toes, and eyes crossed that this book does well. I want to write the sequel!

Remember I mentioned Breaking Waves, the charity anthology from Book View Cafe? It's out in all digital formats. We're figuring out a print version. This is a kickass collection of stories, essays, poetry, cartoons, and photographs by a great group of writers, and all the proceeds go for relief in the Gulf. I have two stories in it.

I'm putting together all my horseblogs into an ebook, with expansions and explanations. That should be out from BVC in November.

Busy. Yes. Got to keep the horses in hay.

And now, about Ephiny...

Neepity! )

This morning when I went out to feed, Ephiny was all snuggly and sweet. As I went to do the chores, she plugged into the earth--stood almost perfectly square, as she would for me on her back, and watched me for several minutes before she went back to her normal slouch.

Breakthrough. She's figured it out. I'm really looking forward to the next ride, to see what else she's got a handle on in that lovely brain of hers.

It's been a week for breakthroughs, really. Camilla had her first ride outside the arena--very short, because the War Mare is all about the drama and I wanted to be sure she kept it together throughout. She did very well, she didn't get stuck more than a little bit, and she didn't freak out or bolt, though she thought about it more than once. Definitely a win. There will be more.

Her brother of course had to show her up. He didn't want a ring ride, he wanted Out. Rather emphatically. Took three tries to get him to stand still for mounting--and he's known the rules there since he was a snotty baby stallion. We had a rather snorty and elevated start, but I started doing lesson homework, connecting my seat to his hindlegs and doing shortening and lengthening of stride, and wow. Magic. Instant calmdown. We ended up riding all the way to the next street, past Scary Dog Number One, and were only a little bit looky. No bouncing or passaging. Nice long neck and calm walk back to the barn. GOOOOOD Pooka!

Homework FTW. Oh yeah.
dancinghorse: (connecting)
Ephiny had ride number two yesterday. She’d had a little ground work in between lessons, but with [livejournal.com profile] tcastleb away for a week, and me not inclined to ride a totally green horse when there’s no one around in case of need to call 911, she got a nice long time to process her data.

Very interesting session. She was a little high and flighty about the Scary Tree while we were doing groundwork to get started, but she didn’t do courbettes, she just got looky. That’s a big change for her. She also had an issue with her right stifle—boinked it a couple of days ago, and I had seen her resting it a fair amount along about Tuesday, but she wasn’t overtly lame and hey, S is a masseuse. I figured a lesson could only help. Some rather interesting lesson neep )

Poor thing was all sizzlebrain by the time she finished. I had to pour her into the grooming area to get her saddle off, then she pretty much snoozed the day away, except for breaks to eat.

The part that really pleased me was that she is totally unfazed by having me on her back. She likes it, it feels good, it’s natural. The problems she’s having are body-awareness problems, which many horses have to deal with much later (q.v. Pook, Camilla…), if they every get a chance at all. I’m very much in favor of them happening now, because while it makes for a very slow, gradual, painstaking start, it will pay off hugely later.

S agreed that this is not a horse who could start in 30 days. She’d fry. She needs a lot of time to process, and a lot of time to figure things out. A very slow, methodical, careful process is best for her. That’s typical for Lipizzans; she’s not unusual, or unusually slow. The payoff, as I said, comes later, when she’s got things sorted out and is comfortable, Then she’ll be amazing. She is so smart, so talented, and so clearly hardwired to be a riding horse. Taking our time now means no holes in her training, and no problems that will crop up later.

She’s happy now, but still very, very thinky. The wheels are turning and turning. I’ll be interested to see what happens in a day or two, when I ask her for some groundwork again.
dancinghorse: (Clarion)
For today, we wrote Exactly 1200 words of outline/story sketch/very very very very rough initial Stuff on Sekrit Projekt.

Camilla got a ride in the dusk, buzz-bombed by bat. She had happy ears, because she got her turn even though Ephiny got all the daylight, humph! Miss E wore saddle and bridle, did balance work, learned about weight in stirrups. She's been wobbling all over the place like a cheap folding table when she wears the saddle. Tonight she learned that when weight goes in the stirrup, you get a leg at each corner and you stand. She learned this on the right side first--that cranky right leg instead of coming up for a kick opted to root itself in earth and she stood. There was much praise of her Awesomeness. Which she ate up with a spoon. Ephiny loves to be Awesome.

She's almost ready. Just a tiny bit more thinky time and setup, and she'll have me on her back. I'll do that in a session with S--two weeks, give or take.

For anyone who says you have to start them while they're young and weak, because when they're mature they're too strong and therefore dangerous, I have this to say: A big, giant razzberry. 8yo Ephiny is grown into herself, has a clue how to balance, is pretty comfortable in her body, and has enough brain cells to handle the concept of work. She's had to learn the habit of obedience, as all young horses do, and she's needed time to get used to the idea of steady work, but she's got a wonderful mind and her body is ready to handle whatever I ask of it.

It does help that as a 3yo she was trailer-trained and taken to her breeding-stock evaluations (she passed, needless to say), and she's since been handled and played with regularly. She hasn't been a wild child all her life. But this late start has been a good thing, and she's taken to it very nicely. I'm looking forward to finally sitting on her.

11919 / 20000
(59.6%)
dancinghorse: (WorkingEphiny)
This is a totally random post. May take sharp left turns. Or right ones. Enjoy the ride.

Ephiny
I realize I've seriously fallen down on Ephiny's Training Diary. Working Student had to quit because of overwhelming academic commitments, which removed the structure from that project. We have continued the process, slowed down by CFS, weather, and assorted farp, but the slowdown has had method in its madness. Ephiny has been processing; I've been working her when she asks, and doing various things: groundwork, wearing of tack, longeing, and starting this month, Walkies Outside The Herd. Adventures in Energy Management )

I talked to S about this today. Couldn't find the funds for a lesson (I have a couple of openings for new or returning Mentees--sign up by email or in comments), but I watched [livejournal.com profile] tcastleb's and touched base with S afterwards. If and when the wherewithal is available, I'll back Ephiny with S's help. She's ready. I got that message this week. It's a feeling one gets. The work's going well, the horse has her ducks in a row, it's time. I want to do a little more with wearing of tack, some messing around while she's in it, and get her fully comfortable with bridle and bit (she's worn them but not consistently). And we'll be there. S wants to do what we did with Camilla: groundwork that segues into me on her back. Which is exactly what I was thinking, too.

Pooka Blows My Tiny Little Mind
Pooka meanwhile has been demonstrating that he may not be ostentatiously Evil like ze keed, or all drama queen like Camilla, but he too is Not The Standard Issue. I've done some thinking about things in general, not just horses, and looking back at the virtual landscape of the past half-year, I see one reason after another for him to not want lessons. If it's not weather or lack of cash, it's him springing a leak. Ho-kay, so, is he telling me something? Yes, I think he is. )

That's where we are now. Pooka wants to be a trail pony. It's a useful skill and he wants it. Alternating with ring work that's actually getting somewhere. And it's making me remember who I really am, what I can really do--and that's paying off big time with the Girlz, because they need that confident, experienced, un-messed-up me.

Fiction Brain, Back at Last
I think that applies to the fiction, too. The past few years have been brutal and I've fought through massive blockage and a whole lot of hating on everything I managed to scrape out through the blocks. There have been a few spurts of good times--last fall's Attack Novel, which got halfway through before I fell apart again, being the most notable--but mostly it's been all about the suckage.

In the past couple of weeks, I've been coming up with idea after idea. Working on proposals. Having a blast with a couple of Top-Sekrit Projekts that I will talk about in time, don't worry. Jogging along slowly with story for the second Shadow Conspiracy volume--and falling in love with the Victorian Age and its Steampunk variations.

I never cared much for that era. I was always into the ancients and the Middle Ages. More modern stuff just didn't do it for me. But one way and another, thanks to this crazy-delightful shared world and a few other developments in the past several months, I have myself a new research baby and I am having so. Much. Fun.

Best part, really, is that the way publishing has changed, I'm no longer bound by what will sell to the Big Six. I hope these projects will, because that's still where the living wages are, but if they don't, there are other ways to get the work out there. Starting with Book View Cafe, which is working on a new, streamlined, much more accessible system.

So, lots of thinky thoughts there, and lots of ideas. Just the way we like it.

Online Classes--Beta-Testers Ho!
Yes, finally! I'm lining myself up to get a working model of an online class. I have a list of people who said they'd like to help beta-test. This is free--if you decide it's worth something, I have PayPal, but if you'd like to help me get a system together that really works, comment or email. I'll be doing it through an lj filter to start with, as it's the simplest way and the format is familiar to all of us. Subject: Plotting. Come and play!
dancinghorse: (Dancing Camilla)
We are in the middle of Camp Lipizzan, and true to tradition, our Camper has already booked the next one. We're the potato chips of writers' retreats (you can't have just one).

Our unseasonably non-toasty spring weather continues. There is an occasional flirtation with the high 90sF, then the wind comes roaring in and we drop down to the 80s. Or even the high 70s. This can continue, minus the wind, please.

And of course, because this is Camp, we've had Lessons! With NEEEEEEEP! Illustrated! )

Best part of all, Evar? It was a totally normal Green-War-Mare lesson. Opinions, Airs, fusses, and all. No PTSD. No sign of trainer-aversion or any kind of problem with the concept of a lesson. She was totally in favor of doing it, she let me know exactly where I was being a dork, and she generally acted just like the young Capria or the slightly younger Pooka. S said she could see where the Toxic One went astray, and why a trainer might be tempted to "master" her and accuse her of being resistant or lazy or "too loose with her joints." She's a tough horse with a core of pure marshmallow, and she pushes hard so you won't realize how soft she is underneath. I was falling into it in the lesson, and thanks to the photos, I'll be a lot more aware next time I ride her.

She's very thinky now. I'll ride her in a couple of days, after she's had time to process, and see what she says. But one thing's for sure. ZOMG That Trot. Oh it is heaven to ride--even unbalanced and unsure and tending to fall apart and get stuck. It's pure soft power. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
dancinghorse: (WorkingEphiny)
This was a big week for the Divine Miss E. No, we haven't sat on her yet. But she made serious strides toward being ready for it.

Monday was challenging. The wind was ferocious. She was out of her head with hormones.

Bear in mind, we have not been able to get this mare to show heat signs. She has normal structures but nothing seems to have gone on in them. A year and a half as Pooka's pasture buddy resulted in nothing, and he never appears to have bred her.

This year, she's finally unblocked whatever was blocked. Our first session with her had its wild moments, and she seemed Very interested in the stallion.

Monday, she was exactly the same way. I checked the calendar. 21 days. Yep, Miss Late Bloomer is finally blooming in that direction.

We could feel the sparks coming off her during her grooming. She was calm, comfortable with the routine, but there was a definite undertone. We decided not to saddle her, but to do groundwork and obedience work instead, and free-longe her if she was inclined. J started off--we alternate so she gets used to the idea of working with multiple people--and did a little leading work, but she was not cooperative. As in, levades and sudden eruptions. I instructed J to turn her loose and see if we could free-longe.

None too soon, either. Directly in front of J, Ephiny went UP. Full vertical courbette with three feet of air.

In case you wondered what Ephiny's Air is...Milestones )

And in Tia news, because Tia will not let big sister outshine her, while I rode Capria, Tia mirrored us exactly through a longish sequence of figures in both walk and trot, moving to voice and whip instructions (whip touching shoulder or pointing the direction to turn) as well as body language from me as well as Capria. She actually cantered up to us when we started, and attached herself to Capria's inside. Capria didn't mind a bit. Capria is good with this pas-de-deux thing. It's in the genes.

Though when Camilla decided to make it a pas de trois, Tia's baby brain got a little fizzy and she took off at a wild gallop. She's not ready for that yet.

At this rate, I'll end up with a full quadrille. O_o
dancinghorse: (Tia)
Ephiny's education proceeds apace. Yesterday she had a more casual session than usual. Grooming, check. Feet, check--she's so good now about picking them up and putting them down. Cavesson, check. Not saddle; we were headed for some groundwork, because she's been throwing her shoulder into people who want to lead her.

So of course she didn't do that this time. She was quiet, focused, and attentive. Her right side has been an issue; she does tend to push into my hand on that side, but the wild defensive kicking is gone. (It's not structural or pain-related--S worked on her and said it's psychological. No known reason in this life, but...) We did the gentle rocking and the stepping over and the "move your butt, honey" exercises, and we got sleepy eyes and long, soft neck. Finished off with a request to bend just in the atlas on each side. Left was easy. Right, less so, but the fierce resistance she used to show was gone. Eventually she relaxed and stretched and flexed.

She liked it. She wanted more. We finished with Tia practically in our faces, demanding in boldface for a turn.

Oy, war mares. Oy, alphatudinal young Lipizzan war mares.

First she had to cope with the cavesson being fitted. Headflip! Grab leadrope! Chew on leadrope! Then there was discussion of where I belonged. At her shoulder, I said. Right in front of me, she said, with much imperious pawing. At your shoulder, I replied.

Then, rocking-exercise time. No, she said. Not doing that. Do not want. But it feels good, I said. Relax. See what I mean. OK, she said. But busy now! Bored now! Go backwards now! Come here, I said. Try it. It's nice. OK, she said. Busy! Back! No!

Eventually she relaxed and gave a little. The pawing eased up. I tried the less-is-more strategy. Worked even better with her than with Ephiny. (Hmm--not as tough as she looks, that girl.) I pushed her a little, and she got just a teeny tad bit overfaced, but she calmed down and gave and flexed and that was enough.

And she wanted more, too. Which is good. She was feeling cranky, pushy, wanted to be in charge, as can happen with young alphas when they first get the memo about obedience. We'll be working on that for a while, as we did with Ephiny and Camilla, and yes, all the way back to Capria, who was not always the Perfect Schoolmaster. Not hardly.
dancinghorse: (WorkingEphiny)
There's been a bit of a blogging hiatus in the past two weeks, but not a work hiatus. We have had somewhat truncated weeks, with Easter and all, and now J is in the end-of-semester crunch. But work proceeds, and Ephiny has settled into the routine. J arrives, we clear the arena, everybody gets a little hay, she gets groomed and taken out to work.

We've had some very windy days, not the best for working with a young and opinionated horse. For those we opted to do groundwork instead. The first time, the Monday before Easter, she was baffled. We both worked with her on obedience and attentiveness. And that was it. But--but--weren't we forgetting something? Like, saddle? Cavesson? Longe work?

The next time we had strong winds, which was Easter Monday, I saddled her and put on the cavesson, but opted not to use the longeline. Instead I experimented to see if she would walk at the end of the 10-foot leadrope on her usual longe circle. She would, and nicely, too. She's getting the idea.

In between these sessions, when it's been quieter and she's been correspondingly calmer, we've continued with the longe work in walk on the circle. This past Wednesday, for the first time, I was in the middle and J did the outer circle. After two circles in that familiar configuration, J unsnapped the secondary lead and Ephiny got to experiment with more authentic longeing. She was quite good going right, more inclined to fall in going left, but the penny has definitely started to drop. She'll be an old hand on the longe quite soon.

At the moment she's hit a stage I've seen before: she's been wonderfully cooperative about her work, but she's testing her boundaries and getting quite pushy on the lead. Today's plan (sans J who is at work) is to discuss this with her and confirm a few of the rules.

She certainly isn't objecting to having a job. Tuesday when I brought Camilla in for grooming, I had to peel Ephiny off in order to get Camilla through the gate. Ephiny wanted to work! She wanted to work now! She didn't see why she couldn't do it now!

Very good development, that.

And yes, Camilla is back on the regular roster. Well past time, and she's getting used to the idea of being ridden like a normal horse. So much so that after two days in a row of work, she mugged [livejournal.com profile] tcastleb for work yesterday, and got groundwork, since she insisted.

Ya have to love the workaholics.

In among all this, we've had Adventures in Gimpitude. Carrma got up from a nap a week ago Monday and was three-legged lame. We figure either a bad bruise or a strain. There was some Angst, and we had S come and work on her (massage and electrostim). She's off stall rest now, still gets a wrap at night, but is notably improved, which indicates bruise or strain rather than tendon injury. Tendons take forever to heal, and moving around would be the worst thing for it at ten days out; in this case, she's better off with movement. Big relief there.

And, not to be outdone, Pooka threw a tire on Monday--sound in walk, lurching in trot. Left fore. Either bruise or twisted shoulder. Gah. He's improving; has been working out of it, but not enough for a ride. He'll get another diagnostic longe today to see how he looks. Wednesday he was still a bit short on the leg, though much better than Monday.

It's always something. But hey. By the time J gets off crunch time, Ephiny should be ready for backing. And then she'll take over the world.
dancinghorse: (Ephiny)
Finally, about two years after I wanted to do it, we're getting ready to start Ephiny under saddle. She's been yay ready for a year, but the parting of the ways with the trainer who used to be here weekly, followed by a whole lot of me-rehab from Toxic Trainer Syndrome, meant that there was no one here to help--and with a young horse, especially a highly opinionated, very spirited, not always inclined to be cooperative Lipizzan mare, that's dangerous. As a result we've both been in a state of frustration for the past year, but it just hasn't been happening.

It appears that the Mother Ship has been on the job after all. A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of March Camp, I had email from a student in Equine Sciences at the U of A, inquiring about a working student position. I get these once a year--it must be a spring thing--but it hasn't worked out previously.

This time the student knew where the farm is (the last one thought it was in Sonoita, an hour SE of here), what it does, and how it works based on the website--and was very interested. I invited her over, Capria and [livejournal.com profile] tcastleb and I interviewed her, and the result was two thumbs and a hoof up.

Now we have a working student, a very good dressage rider with plenty of Warmblood and Thoroughbred experience, lots of training experience, but no experience of actually backing a horse. I also need help riding and training the others, and that she can do handily; Capria likes her, Pandora's size and way of going are very familiar for her, and best of all, she really likes keed, who is a type she hasn't dealt with much before. One of her projects will be to get him back to being a ridin' hoss, work with S. on his various issues (now almost gone, but it never hurts to get rid of them completely), and get experience of riding and training a nice Half-Arabian. She might even show him. It's certainly a possibility.

So there's our backstory. The main story is the saga of turning Ephiny into a riding horse.

You want me to do <i>WHAT</i>? )

This working-student thing? Genius. I hope it goes on for a good long time. I still have Camilla waiting impatiently to get her full share of the roster. Next week for sure. And we'll be getting started with Tia once Ephiny is going steadily--groundwork, ground-driving, longeing, and all that good stuff. She's a tough customer and will kick, but she'll be easier in some ways. Less need to tiptoe and whisper, and much stronger motivation. She's been training herself to do the figures as it is, following me when I ride, and learning the words for the things we do. But she won't be 5 till next month, so she has time. Ephiny needs it now.

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