Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Doi!!!

Rocky aka Life of the Party
Interesting news:


I found Rocky's harness racing information online.  His real name is Life of the Party and he had quite the short career!  For some reason he suddenly quit racing this past March at just over 5 years old.  His wins were declining, but based on his errr, sensitivity (spookiness), I tend to believe it was due to an "incident."


How do I get to that conclusion?  In my stupid, human way, I thought it would be interesting to play, on my iPhone, for Rocky (yes, THE HORSE) a video of his last first place win from one year ago. You know, an indication to him of, hey buddy, I know from whence you came.

Yep. Smart.  


I did the horse-video-screening last night upon reuniting with him after two days away.  I stopped mid-video because he was clearly recognizing it and it was NOT giving him warm fuzzies.  And, I hate to report that our ride last night and a very long ride today were the spookiest and shakiest, he has been since the first rides.  Bummer.  I reactivated my horse's post traumatic stress syndrome.  


By the end of today's ride though he was a champ. 


I happened to miss a call from his owner while I was on him today so I returned it as Rocky and I were hanging out at the end of the ride.  Gary was coming up to the area and wondering if he should stop by.  I told him how well it had been going and of this minor set back.  He's the closest to a cowboy that I've met since I've been here.  His parting words?  "Uhm, try and stay away from showing him any more videos, okay?"  I could hear him smiling.


The bigger realization I had during that conversation was that I was talking to his OWNER and how there was a little bit of me realizing that, theoretically, he could say, "I'm coming by and picking him up."  (which he didn't)  And with that thought there was a bit of panic which told me how much I want to keep him.


So in the phase of a set back I need to look at the positives of today's three hour outing.


- Although he majorly balked and it took him a long time to pass a house with a leaf blowing alien monster: WE DID IT.  I now qualify for riding a bronco in the rodeo, but we did it!  My trick, besides being patient and letting him spend a lot of time staring at the scariness, was to react to his side-stepping, running backwards and sudden stops by making him do nonsensical circling, etc. until he decided to move forward the way I wanted him to.  After 103 tries, he succeeded without being eaten by the alien.


- We made it to the island and around the island.  Again, he initially acted as if he'd never crossed water, but after we moved along he acclimated well.  


- I mounted and dismounted several times and he was great for me-- and I'm back to mounting from ground with no problem.


- We got all the way back from the island and had to return to get my crop and he went without protest.  THAT was the turning point when I really felt the love.  Then I had to dismount again and lead him through a narrow, high grass area (again) and he was like my sweet, giant dog--just right with me, second guessing me and as good as gold.


- At the end of the ride as I'm talking to Gary for a while and fiddling with Rocky-- rubbing his face, messing with his forelock,  rubbing him-- he looked at me and said I love you.  Well almost.  He just stood so patiently and sweetly and with his eyes spoke volumes.


- He doesn't need to be tied.  He just stands with me.


- He basically picks his feet up with telepathic communication.  Never had a horse be that good with feet.


So tonight when my husband asked if he was really progressing like he should, after hearing the "set-back story," I unequivocally said YES.  This guy hasn't been under saddle.  Hasn't seen all the great outdoors while being ridden and clearly had never been on top of the world (or the bottom) with the ocean on three sides and he is coming on.  Yep sometimes there a few steps back, but that's life isn't it?


Then my question was-- do you want to spend 5-10 times the price of Rocky and find me a "bomb proof horse" that is going to be the same ride over and over?  Frankly, I'm loving watching him come along and simply facilitating the process.  


And as we all should be doing in our relationships, I will be more mindful of "first do no harm." 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Three in One

Working from my iPhone I will attempt a brief Rocky update. We had a full week of pouring rain so I did miss a few days.

This morning we had our third ride since my last Rocky update. The two prior to today were ok. Ricky continues to warm up quicker each ride. Yesterday one of the horse owners rode Star into our gate and I could sense by the way he reacted eying them from afar that all was not right. My gut is that he may have not seen someone on a horse before and wondered what the creature was; it was a horse he was not familiar with. When we got close, he promptly began posturing, whinnying and turned an attempted a kick. I was able to rein him in but the other owner was a bit daunted. Star has the reputation for being a bossy one and was in season; his owner wondered if he was reacting to her. I still think he was in shock. I think it would've been great to ride longer with Star in view- we did a bit but they basically rushed back. Next outing with a horse should be tagging along with Simba, whom he knows. Good news was that she left the gate open so for the first time we took the trek along the road down to the first gate. He was super and we did end up cruising by the pasture where Star and another horse live.

Today was an excellent ride. Virtually no warm up required and he was off responding to leg cues, minimal reining, and reading my mind. I had a slow and steady conversation with him and virtually no spooks. I opened a gate on the way to the barn so we could easily wander much further afield. He did great going into some unknown territory.

All in all I'm so proud of his progress: standing well to mount, requiring less but, responding very well to voice commands and leg cues, coming readily to be ridden, standing without being tied & practically giving me his feet before being asked. He's very affectionate without being domineering and lives rub downs and grooms. I think it is safe to say that the bond is mutual.

Last three rides I'd give a 6/10, 8/10 & 10/10 successively.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Landing in Northland update- a quick observation of the arts

Surprise art is everywhere at The Quarry
Rain is coming down steadily today and is forecasted for the rest of the week, so I'm taking this break from "Rocky the horse" to catch up on some writing and reading, and, I'd like to say novel revisions: the afternoon is young.




We continue to be blown away regarding the amount of culture there is available in a town of 55,000 in the far North of New Zealand.  I guess in part it is because, even though the population isn't great, Whangarei is the largest "city" in the far north.  And, let's face it, this small country has an inordinate amount of extremely artistically literate individuals and groups.  The following is an extremely brief update of what we have observed.


Recently I went with my friend, Kathy Mortimer, who is an amazing artist using sand and shells from New Zealand beaches, to a two day art fair in Paihaia.  You can see Kathy's work HERE.


Interestingly, the first day, we set up her tent beside an artist and her husband.  He happened to be a psychologist/author so we commiserated about the field(s) and his wife, Natalie Tate, is a prolific artist.  I've never quite seen one person articulate such vast styles.  She renders creative, yet life-like portraits but also has a command for the surreal or impressionistic landscape.  On top of that she has a spirit connection with her horse, doesn't live too far from me and I felt like I made a soul connection.  MAYBE, one day, we will have her do one of her phenomenal family portraits of our brood.  Although she says her website needs updated with her artwork from the past couple years, you can get an idea of her talent HERE.


Most weekends Whangarei has art fairs at the Town Basin and I must say there is no way I could begin to comment on all of the unique art I have seen.  They are on Saturdays 10:00-3:00, some Sundays and some Wednesday evenings.


One of our favorite places is The Quarry, an artists cooperative that is set in a funky-cool area with its very own waterfall and unique art surrounding it.  Atticus has taken clay classes there on school breaks.  We went and followed the sand mandala being created by the Buddhist monks and the unveiling of their new gallery.  They have been a go-to place for gifts. The OpShop also played at a concert there that was widely attended and had the old fashioned "hippy" music festival feel-- in a really good way.  When my 21 year old son gets here in 11 days it is on the top of his list of things to revisit.  He had fun jamming with the creator of the boxed guitars and playing frisbee with the three legged dog.  Apparently their summer art camps (for adults) are widely attended.  You can learn more HERE. (I'll say it again: love, love, love The Quarry)


Just a sampling at what can be found at, probably the largest and most fluid arts venue in Whangarei, Forum North, click HERE.  We've been taken by the variety Forum North hosts.


After attending the last theatre production we went to at the Forum North- a dance, multimedia performance by the Atamira Dance Company we were blown away. A review of the show is HERE.  And here is a clip:





As we left this show, Stephen looked at me and said, "This is something you would see in New York City!"  THAT is the caliber of talent we are seeing in the far North of a country with 4.4 million inhabitants.


A local production, A Pack of Girls, was packed on the final show, had toured the Northland, and was hilarious with brilliant comedic timing.  This was a first time play by a local production company, Black Box Theatre.


I've just gotten a part in a comedy with the Whangarei Theatre Company.  I am very excited and told it is an excellent cast and director.  After at least a ten year hiatus of doing anything theatrical, I'm a bit giddy.  Auditioning, itself, was a blast!  The play is Death & Taxe$ by a lauded Kiwi playwright whose name I do not know.  I'll find out more at at the read through Tuesday.


The amount and quality of visual artists is phenomenal and I was recently told that many migrate here because of the "winterless" climate as well as the spirituality component and that Whangarei has the largest percentage of artists in New Zealand.


Alrighty then.  Enough for now.  These are just a few things I've been waiting to mention and it feels good to be purged!


Now, no excuse to not get to my blasted novel revisions!!!


Love & light & later,
Becky

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A Gold Star for Rocky and Rain & Wind for the Northland

Heading to the island.  Mount Manaia is seen to the left in the back ground: sacred Maori spot.

Session 9
Sunday, December 11th

After a rest day yesterday with mediocre weather, today was one of those days that you look out the window and say, nope, it's not a day for outdoor activities.  

I then harkened back to all the days I would ride Misty in all types of weather: pouring rain, huge snowfall on the ground or crazy March wind.  When you take your horse out trail-riding or when you've made a long trip to camp with your horses a little weather doesn't stop you.  And the harsh winter doesn't stop you either.  So away I went.

The choice to ride today ended up being an excellent one.  The wind was howling.  The barn was a'clanging.  The rain was intermittent.  All these things mean lots of reason to spook.

Before we went out we did the "friendly game" with the bag, I worked on despooking and from the looks of our ride, it paid off well.

Stephen was there to open gates for us (which is extremely convenient) so we went all the way down to the beach and to the island.  We are talking some extremely windy hill tops and lots of new sights, sounds and scents in this weather.

Rocky's warm up was faster than ever.  He was minimally spooky.  Took to the rein and leg cues quicker than usual after a little reluctance we walked straight to the island with the tide out with the full wind howling into our face and the wind and salt spray covering us.  

Rocky was a champ!!!!

I'm really chuffed at the progress we are making.  This ride went extremely far in improving his confidence and trust in me.  He is learning that I'm not going to let anything bad happen. Given his age, time under the saddle and weather conditions I would give this session a 10/10.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Horse stories continued~

Session 8  Friday December 9 (Happy 21st Birthday Luke!!!)

Typically our riding sessions have been a bit later in the day, but today's started at 830 am.

There were great strides in getting up the hill and out into the real world.  Then much less balking than typical.  The 20 minute warm up session had gone down to 5 minutes.  But after a house load of terriers ran out there door across the road, something got Rocky on high alert and even though he willingly went places he typically takes much coaxing to get to, he was just not relaxed.

That said, I'll take all the positives that came with showing progress.  Mounting easily with my little block- untied.  Out of the pasture area and up the hill easier.  Responding to the leg/rein and intuitively responding to my desires much quicker in the session.  At the gate to move on to next session we stood and he really appeared to want to move on.

I'll take it.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Rocky Rocks On

Thursday December 8- Session 7
Today's ride was so fine, there are no dilemmas to write about so I thought I'd take you on a little tour of our ride.  


This is the pasture gate where I enter and Rocky exits and Simba stalks.  Today we did a little of the Natural Horsemanship Friendly Game and Porcupine Game in the pasture before we left:
                                            
Here is the barn to the left of the gate.  No animals, except some wandering very strange looking duck-like fowl.  This barn sees a lot of coming and going and banging and four wheelers and clanking with the wind . . . Just to give you an idea that there are quite a few odd looking, noisy, large things that he has acclimating to.
                                              
Here is the left edge of the barn and the bumper of my vehicle (aka portable tack shop where he is groomed, tick-picked (none today with the tick bands and spray YAY!) and tacked up:
                                              
Here is how easy he is with standing ad nauseam-  no tying needed just a drape.  Beside him are the blocks I used to mount- with success!  Initially I had him still tied to the car, I mounted- he was perfect, wormed the rope out, had several tries at getting the rear closed and was proud I did.  I unlatched him  Then I realized I didn't have my helmet on.  Now if a kind neighbor hadn't implored me yesterday to be careful because it was in the paper that a woman had just had her head kicked in and was killed by a horse yesterday, I probably wouldn't have bothered.  I never wore a helmet in the states.  Ever.  But I was afraid I'd be looking a witch-horse (i.e. fortune-teller ) in the mouth.  Soooo, I had to dismount, unlock the beach-buggy and remount without him being tied but using the block- good as gold!  He was on solid ground like in this photo :
Here is where the saga always begins.  It's usually about ten minutes to get through this area and it requires several one rein stops to calm his flightiness and fidgeting down.  I praise him every step of the way when he is calm and attentive.  Today was MUCH better than ever before:
And this is the hill we then have to get up to get out away from the pasture and barn and among the living.  I keep him in the grass-  he does not have shoes:
This is the top of the hill and entry to The World.  We usually have to sit there a few minutes and get our bearings, and inspect the scene. Across the way is the area we practice on which is quite large- pics to follow: 
But first here is the view of looking backwards from there back down to the barn/pasture area, from where we just came. It used to be a major task just to get him through the gates:
Here is the area we always warm up in.  Today he responded much more quickly and became intuitively receptive to where I wanted him to go in half the time.  Much less spooking (except one major when my helmet brushed tree branches and he started so abruptly he almost lost me- but it was absolutely innocent) and generally more comfortable. In the far left corner is a walk way that is at an incline and goes between houses.  He always is spooky around there and does NOT want to go.  He went much better today:
The walkway I just mentioned. So proud of him today- we went back and forth and in between the big scary things several times. This is the view looking back after we've reached the road.  It's quite steep:
Then if we take a right out of there and walk down this road to get used to the barking dogs and big scary houses (left in this photo):


 
Here are those scary rocks with the monster gecko that gets him every time, but today he all but ignored him. YAY!!!!  I really felt like he's understanding that I won't let him get hurt:
Here's the other side of our practice area-- it's quite expansive.  Today, for the first time, I had him weaving in and out of those plants and trees in this photo with great results:

I called it a full session after about 45 minutes of riding while he was doing so well and we calmly went back, even with Simba pacing at the fence and talking.  Here he is patiently standing at the beach-buggy tack room at the end of our session:
 And here he is looking for some carrot bites, which I forgot, so instead he got to chomp on some really green, beautiful, high grass  by the fence as his treat before I put him in the pasture.

So there's today's report.  I understand that if anyone actually reads this, it must seem like overkill, but after my recent experience with Ernie I am already finding this very helpful to concretely see the documentation of the progress.  OR know there will be a log here for an "expert" to evaluate if need be.

That said, I also want to say I think New Zealand is a magic horse land.  I'm so amazed at how many free horses there are out there, or free leases or very reasonable purchases.  And this trial period concept is excellent. 

Let's hope this progress continues!
PEACE!































Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Rocky- Sessions 5 & 6

That's us walking up to our portable tack room at the end of our ride.
From crack of dawn Monday until Tuesday evening I was in Paihia with an artist friend of mine who had art shows both days so Rocky was given a bit of a reprieve.

Tuesday, December 6th

After supper we went down and I did some ground work with Rocky.  Spent time grooming with the help of his mate's twelve year old owner, and then I walked him up and out of the barn/pasture area into the open area to help with acclimating him to the area sights and sounds.  We played a little of the Porcupine Game with receptiveness.  It was a bonding groundwork time of about 70 minutes.

Wednesday, December 7th

The day started off rainy and ended up windy with variable clouding up and sprinkles.  I worked with Rocky from about 12:30-2:40 pm.  He is still receptive to being "caught" and does not shy away in the least.  He stands at the back of my vehicle without his long lead even being tied- just draped- and does great for lengthy grooms like today when I was picking ticks off, putting an anti tick tag in his main and tail (made skin contact).  I also sprayed him.  He's to the point of barely needing a touch cue to pick up his feet, was good with that from the get-go, but getting better.

Stephen had suggested that it might be harder for him to mount with me trying to have him on a slope where I have more height leverage so I tried him on flat ground.  He seems a lot higher than my horse Misty, but admittedly, I'm sure I'm just heavier and out of practice and will eventually get stronger at mounting from the ground.  I was trying to lead him up to a wooden crate that was on flat ground that would give me a mounting block but getting him close enough was proving to be a challenge when the farm manager pulled up on his four wheeler and offered to hold him while I mounted from the crate.  When I attempted the mount from the ground he did seem to be responding with staying more still.

Today there was a lot of commotion going on.  The four wheeler was moving about, there was banging going on by a HFP resident in the barn, there were construction guys working up at the top where we come out of the pasture area, the wind was whipping around, someone across the road was weed whacking, a lady was using a hose on her patio . . . all things that seemed to have him on high alert, behaving more spooky and a bit more stubborn.

Again, it took about 20 minutes of walking around in the grassy pasture surrounded by the road and noises until he we "became one" and he appeared to resist less, relax more, and many times go where I willed him to go without much need for the rein.  He does appear to fight the bit in his mouth even if I am not in his mouth at all, so I'm just assuming he used something different than a snaffle for the harness racing- but the owner felt this bridle and bit was a great fit for him.  Sometimes he sticks his head way out in a crazy looking way as if he is trying to get in a position to make it fall out, but he did that last night in his halter as well.  That said, I have never seen a horse accept a bit so eagerly.  While riding I try to get out of his mouth asap so he can see that all he has to do is respond and the won't have pressure . . . but even without any pressure, he doesn't like it.

Today I had to use a lot of one rein stops because he was having trouble stopping and then staying centered.  He'd do a lot of backwards dancing and side stepping at times, especially early on, when I wanted him to be still or he was resisting going in a certain direction.  All in all though, with time the stops and reining came together.

Went up the road to the first cattle gate a few times and detoured by circling in the vacant lots between houses and he did well.  Vehicles, including construction trucks, seemed to be frequent and I am having him stop as they pass.  He's still a bit spooky with the big ornate boulders, but so much better than the first day the owner had him by them.  Mind you, he does also react to Simba who is pacing the fence and whinnying.  Rocky will turn and whinny back.  After Ernie seeing appearing so herd bound and seeing what it can do to behavior, it is so important that they are both competent going out on their own and I'm sure that will continue to get easier as his familiarity builds.

Stephen was just a bit disappointed when I answered how the ride went, "I'd think you would be seeing progress every time."  I explained that there were ways I was still seeing progress compared to the horse that wouldn't even walk up the hill. (Stephen has only witnessed the riding after I had already put in a good 40 minutes of riding and he was warmed up and compliant)  Figuring it is the fourth time we've been out on a ride and it had been two days since I'd been on him and there is still progress from the beginning and times where we are simpatico I'm good with where we are at.  Hopefully it will be a bit less windy tomorrow.  One thing I'm real curious about is how many times this makes total for him to be under the saddle.  From the owner's answer, I'd say not many.

Here's to a great ride tomorrow!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Brief Horse Report #4

Session number 4
Today started off rainy and I knew it was to be rainier in the afternoon.  During a drizzle I went to Rocky- he turned and came towards me with his name and a whistle and then stood for me to approach and halter.  


Stephen and I worked with him for standing still for a mount.  If he moved, I walked him in circles and generally tried to prove that moving was no fun at that moment, if I was asking him to be still.  Initially on a ride he's very skittish for the first fifteen minutes or so, so I understood him not perfectly responding but he did much better that early in a session than usual with moving forward under saddle and responding to the reins and leg (I am adding neck reining every time I am on as well).  


Struggled a bit with a standing halt, but with praise got much better.  After about three assisted mounts (i.e. Stephen standing at his head to stop him if he wanted to move), I was able to get a perfect standing perfectly still mount in.  Took a bit to keep him perfectly still for dismount and when I got it, we quit.  


Good job Rocky!


He will have a break for one or two days while I am out of town with a friend overnight Monday.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Horse Report Number One

WARNING:  If you are not a "horse-person," you'll likely want to stop here, or otherwise be very bored.


To keep track of my work with Rocky, a six year old Standardbred, that has had very little time under the saddle (wasn't extremely clear on that until his owner was driving away), I plan to document my sessions with him.  Rocky was apparently a harness (cart) racer from two on.  I'm not sure exactly when he was retired, but he had apparently won some races.  I have him for a month-long trial period and hopefully, with this documentation, it will be clear whether I have what it takes to keep him and bring him along.

Arrived December 1, 2011

After a 2 hour float (trailer) ride from the Hokianga, Rocky unloaded in good spirits. Owner has only had him since August 2011. He rode him initially, then Rocky sat in the pasture until the day before I got him when the owner saddled him and rode him again.  

The owner and I saddled him up to check the fit of my Western saddle and the bridle and bit and I asked to watch the owner ride him.  The owner is a farrier and very gentle spirited, but very knowledgeable.  He floated his teeth in front of me.  Rocky did pretty well for him, but was very spooked by some ornamental rocks.  He got off him and we walked him to the areas he spooked and got him acquainted and it helped for the next pass.  The owner wasn't in a hurry and I asked if I could ride him in front of him. He was afraid that I had been put off by the spooking incident and asked if I could handle if that happened. I laughed, "If only you'd seen what Ernie has put me through.  That was nothing." He expressed his relief.

For me, Rocky was very slow to start and did a lot of sidewinding.  He was very spooky, but the longer I rode him in an open pasture-ish area the more relaxed and responsive he became.  I felt "okay," albeit a little disappointed that he was as green as he was.  On the ground he was extremely calm and I felt that after being in a float for 2 hours that meant a lot.
                                                  
Later that afternoon, after giving him a few hours with his new mate, Simba, I did a walk with him down to the beach at low tide and across to the island; it's about an hour's walk.  The purpose of this was to familiarize him with the area and the ocean/beach which was new to him.  He was very observant and did extremely well on the lead.  No pushiness, no balking, a little spooky,

Session 2: December 2, 2011
I drove the car right down to the paddock entry.  Rocky came easily enough.  Stood great at the back of my car with the hatch up and all the grooming supplies and tack in my portable tack room.  He stands so well he doesn't even need to be tied, I just put the rope up on the car hinge.  He loves being groomed and I worked on the friendly game (Parelli) with him.

I entertained the idea of lungeing him, but he was SO just wanting to be by my side and since it was the first day I did not want to discourage that contact, so I didn't even attempt it.  Mounting is not second nature for him and I worked with him rewarding him when he stood still and bringing him back to stand.  Then adding weight from my arms and then my foot, eventually mounting without him walking.  Unfortunately, he was afraid to go up the hill and out of that area to walk the road and farm park.  Folks had their big boat and truck out and he was daunted by the look of it.  I got off when it was MY idea.  

We walked up to the top of that hill where the road and more open green is and I had to do the same exercise to mount him again.  Then I just worked with getting him to move forward on the approximately two acre bit of land right there.  He was very slow to start, spooking, going backward and side walking but after about 20 minutes was a different, relaxed horse.   I would one rein stop alternating reins when he was getting out of control and he responded well to that and would even take to circling himself at times when he got worked up.  We looped between houses and back on the road past the things that had scared him previously and although he balked and spooked he ended up doing it fine.  We quit while we were ahead and when I would have plenty of time to give him a good groom, which he appeared to love.

Session #3 December 3, 2011

Again, was easy to catch.  Really took my time with grooming and playing the friendly game.  He is excellent at letting me touch him everywhere and seems to love it.  Had a bunch of ticks on him so that took a while.  He seemed to appreciate me getting them.  Used the bag on the crop as a despooking friendly game and he did great with that and stood like a champ even with the wind blowing the bag around.

              
Still slow to accept a mount, but we worked patiently.  I refuse to get on a walking horse if I can help it.  I want him to be a safe mount for my kids so I will spend time with that. Today we were able to walk from the car up the hill and out into the neighborhood.  Yay for crops!  Didn't have it yesterday and it made a great difference just to give him a little nudge. He still needed a 15 or so minute warm up just to remember what to do.  We then headed to the beach to catch low tide for an island trek if we were lucky.  He was scared to death of a man or a leaf blower, but when it was turned off he suddenly started walking like, "quick, let's do it now while it's quiet."  There were so many subtle signs like that telling me he was really trying hard.

I had to dismount to open one of the cattle gates (the road has the scary crevice crossings to keep the livestock- sheep- in when they are grazing each area; a remote opening would really come in handy. lol).  We then had to start from square one to desensitize for the mount.  Stephen and Atticus pulled up about then and I had Stephen hold him while I mounted to get on with business.  We proceeded to go ahead like that, with Stephen opening two more gates for us.  

We made it fine to the beach . . . again carefully checking out big things like boats . . . and then he did a major spook crossing a little stream that he went over fine the other day.  It was cool and we went along the beach, then across to the island as the tide was coming in.  He did SO well for a non-beach horse.  Wide eyed, on alert, a bit skiddish at times but given his history: sweet as.
                                      
Above the beach area we took a break, unbridled him, tied loosely to a tree while we had a drink, he chomped some grass and we had a little rest.  This was at a nice flat area so I lunged him before mounting him (again, with Stephen holding him-- I was happy to get help those two times so he could feel how quick mounting needs to be over).  He trotted nicely and I voice cued him with "trot."  He only cantered once for a short time . . . but it's there.  

On the way back I was lucky to have a gate opener again and he gave me a little trot (it may have been pacing; it felt a little odd, but smooth-- I couldn't get a look at his legs in time) up a hill, but I am focusing on keeping a smooth and steady walk that he was really getting the hang of by the end of our time.  Again, what a difference a little crop makes . . . and just a very light touch, with voice command and some leg squeeze.  

He stood still for dismount and grooming and carrot nibbles as if he'd been doing this his whole life.  Goes back into pasture and waits patiently while I take his halter off . . . while Simba is so happy to see her buddy and coming on to him.

I think I'm in love.  It's okay, I think Stephen is too-- he won't let me trim his long sun-bleached bangs because he thinks they are cute (they remind him of one of the kids).

(I'm typing this at our beach, watching Stephen windsurf across the bay and Atticus play on the giant P [pottutakawa?sp] tree that will all be blooming red soon for Christmas.  We are heading back up the house to grill some salmon, relax and spend a lovely Saturday evening looking at the view.  THIS day was the fantasy and we appreciate every minute of it)
                                         

Friday, 2 December 2011

Seven months later: A New Zealand Update


Wow.  I've officially been in New Zealand for seven months.  I remain in awe.  There are beautiful views, terrain and surprises in nature at every turn.



I find great joy in watching our seven year old leave barefoot for school every day- even on the days he thinks he needs a jacket and watching him immersed in the lessons of the indigenous Maori culture.


I can sit and watch the ocean for hours (if I let myself).



It thrills me to have our family come over and discover the beauty with us.  I'm looking forward to the arrival of six of our kids this month and the final one to see NZ next month.  

It is difficult to describe, but the weeks I had with my older kids this summer was a very precious time that would have never happened had we still been in the states.  They have their own lives and in Springfield it was a rarity to sit down for lengthy conversations or to get everyone together for a meal.  The older boys were here for five+ weeks and my daughter for two.  The boys and I had grown-up Camp Jennison.  Keegan, 17, is writing a novel and we shared our experiences and thoughts about writing and recommendations with each other between being out and about seeing the sights.  Luke is a musician and I think it would be fair to call him a multi-media artist.  He was frequently creating music or other work on his computer so it was as if we were having the creative camp intensive.  We would go downtown and listen to Luke at open mic nights while he played with and bonded with some of the locals.  He would occasionally busk, saving up money to buy a dear friend a necklace.  They were up early in the mornings.  We talked and talked and talked as we travelled about and hiked and marveled at the Northland.  And we LAUGHED and laughed and  . . .  

For me, this experience with my kids this summer let me know that even though we are far apart (although kept close with technology) this move had the power to actually bring us much closer and experience quality time that otherwise would never have happened at the level. (Done going on and on, but still basking in the glow) (oh, and just got finished with a really great Skype "hang out session" with my 23 year old daughter . . . gotta love Skype)


And having dear friends join us early on was a delight.
                                         
It is an absolute delight to see my husband, who has spent his life caring for others, have a moment to exhale and enjoy the sea that he so loves while he takes care of himself.

Seeing the delight in my 83 year old in-laws has been a joy.  They were rockstars to make the trip from England and enjoyed themselves immensely.  We just said good-bye to them after a month long stay a couple of days ago.

                               

If you are my friend on FaceBook, you know I had a serious addiction to my personal crack in the past couple of months: newborn lambs.  I couldn't get enough of them and could sit and watch them all day.  We are surrounded by them in our neighborhood; it was/is a simple pleasure that brought me much joy.

                                     

THE book.  I finished my first novel in the early months of being here and now I am dragging on with revisions.  Oh so close at being done.  I still love my original title "Fool Me Once," but on another search, when previously I'd found few books of that title, I came upon a copius amount.  Bummer.  Guess I was the fool.  So a dear reader of the first draft came up with the title- Purgatory- and I actually loved the concept after reviewing the literal definition of the word.  And then, Keegan, my seventeen year old whipped out this amazing cover draft.  The book is there.  The book will be born when the universe says it is the right time.  I have just made a conscious decision not to put living and enjoying this  amazing country on hold to sit still and finish it.  Now . . . if someone wanted to sign me, or give me an advance . . . trust me, I'd be writing a whole different sentence that would have the word "deadline" in it. In this moment, I am very relaxed about the book.  It lives. 

                                                    
                                                       

Second chances.  Yesterday I started an experiment with second chances.  Ernie, my friend's horse, a twelve year old, spirited Thoroughbred did not work out for me.  His temperament had taken a drastic turn before I took him and he just did not want to be under the saddle, although he was as sweet as sugar on the ground.  At 17 hands, a horse that doesn't want to be ridden and will buck and rear and run backwards towards a drop off to make that point is not a safe horse.  Ernie's story was that even under the saddle, when he was good, he was very very good, but when he was bad he was horrid (and DANGEROUS).  His owner took him back yesterday and I will follow the saga of how he goes and I hope he goes very well; he came to me after a short-lived stint working with riders with disabilities.

Enter Rocky.  Part of me was so sad about the experience with Ernie that I was going to write off getting another horse.  Then a louder part of me said, don't be a fool.  Since you were a little girl you wanted to have your own horse . . . in close proximity.  (part of the issue was that my first and only horse, a palomino paint, Misty, was/is the best horse in the whole entire world and she would never be topped).  

I found Rocky.  He arrived yesterday from the Hokianga.  His owner is letting me have him for a month as a trial.  He will be a "project" himself, but from the looks of it a sweet one.  Rocky is a six year old Standardbred that came off the harness racing tracks within the last couple of years.  The owner has had Rocky for a few months.  He hasn't been ridden much.  The owner rode him for the first time in over six weeks the day before floating him here on a two hour journey.  He came out of the float calm as a cucumber.  Spooked a bit with riding . . . lots of wind, new place, but easily enough adjusted.  The owner is a farrier and had taken care of his shoeless feet before they left, drenched (wormed) him and floated his teeth right there as I watched.  He was a gentle and knowledgeable spirit with Rocky and has offered himself as a resource.  He worried that my observance of Rocky spooking on a huge boulder with a mosaic gecko on it would put me off.  I laughed, that was nothing compared to what Ernie had put me through.  Later we took a long walk down to the beach and across to the island and low tide to get a feel for the area.  He was a pleaser.  I'm grateful for second chances and hope he makes a great family horse for us.  I'll be very proud and fulfilled if I can bring this six year old along (and the price is extremely right . . . just a bonus . . . because he isn't dressage trained).


                  

I take amazing hikes with views like this several days a week.  

                                                 

The least of my worries has been making friends.  New Zealand has shown hospitality, genuineness, kindness and already given us some dear, dear friends for which we are very grateful.  One sweet couple has insisted on having an Atticus weekend and sending us on our merry way for some "adult" time.  Atticus is thrilled and, hey, we're okay with it I guess.  

Until the next rain falls or inspiration wallops me up side the head . . . sending love and light and best holiday wishes from New Zealand to wherever you may be.

Kia Ora