Monday, January 9, 2012


I did not, in fact, fall off the horse on Saturday.  Showed up for my last Groupon lesson, and was given Oso again.  (Oso.  The shorter horse.  Yay!)

The classes were advertised as including "horsemanship," which basically meant learning a bit more about saddling/unsaddling and basically caring for your horse each time out.  So, my teacher goes off to get a saddle and tells me to brush the horse.  I pick up the one brush I'd been taught to use.  This brush loosens the dust on the horse, but does not, in fact, remove said dust from said equine.  When she returns with the saddle, I asked if there wasn't some other brush I should be using at this point.  She asked if I hadn't already been taught about it.  "No," I pointed out, "you'd just asked the other student to show me, and he'd only shown me this one."  I think, at this point, my teacher had a moment of realization that I'd been somewhat overlooked in the instruction department on my earlier lessons.  

The result was that I actually got a lot of instruction.  First, I learned how about both brushes and the hoof pick.  (And I learned probably the most important thing about cleaning your horse's hooves:  do not put your feet underneath where the horse might want to put his hoof down.)  Then, I actually got a lot of detail going when I rode the horse around the ring.  There was lots of walking and making turns (and standing up in the stirrups!)  But, without my teacher paying attention to other students at the same time, she made lots of minute adjustments to everything I was doing, and answered all of my questions.  (I'm a pretty asky student, when you get right down to it.)  

I also found that my relationship with my teacher vastly improved if I said out loud everything I was trying to make the horse do.  (Not that I expected the horse to understand, mind, but if I said, "gentle turn to the left," while I tried to do it, it cut down dramatically on miscommunications with the teacher.)  On occasion, the horse wouldn't do what I wanted (teacher said I got a lot of lessons on what to do when my horse was being "naughty"), but the difference between Oso and the taller horse of the other day (Sterling) was that Oso just stopped when being naughty, whereas Sterling would try to canter off (ideally, I expect, out from under me).  Besides Oso being rather safer with this whole stopping thing, this rather matched my own way of dealing with things.  So, teacher is giving me all these commands (generally, "kick him; kick him again") and I start just narrating what I'm doing:  "stop; regroup; heels down; lean back in the saddle; reins steady; upper body to the left; kick on the right,"  (At which point, the teacher will add whatever I'm missing, like, "eyes up," and I growl at myself and say, "Shit!  Eyes up," but then I try it again, and am rewarded with horse motion in the right direction.)  But once she understood that I was intentionally stopping and regrouping when things weren't going my way -- rather than just being frozen with confusion -- she both approved of the practice and started giving me more appropriate instruction.

A bit unfortunate that it actually took until the final lesson for me to figure out how to relate to the teacher, but I ultimately DID get out of the lessons what I wanted:  an increase in my comfort factor on an English saddle; and a much better understanding of how to control the horse (beyond "reins to the left or right"). 

Indeed, my most surprising breakthrough in understanding came when she said that it isn't really the reins at all; it's the shifting of your weight on the horse.  Turn your upper body, and the horse feels it and moves with you.  And I said, "Hey!  That's just like skiing!"  (Like I'm some expert skier or something.  But in my introductory skiing lesson, I learned the fairly magical fact that if you turn your upper body in the direction you want to go, the rest of you goes with it.)  Teacher agreed that it was just like skiing.  I hadn't expected to make a connection like that at all, but once I made it, I aimed for another cross-training one -- and set my feet in the stirrups on exactly that "ball of your foot" point that you're supposed to balance on in figure skating.  I think it was right -- I didn't mention it, but teacher didn't correct my foot placement again.

So, yeah, I think the most interesting thing I walked away from this experience with is that I can actually take my limited experience from one sport into another -- none of this stuff is completely new.  How cool is that?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Guess Where I Was Today?


In case you need another hint:

I was there because of this young lady:

She's one of the Rose Princesses.  She's also my friend's niece.  My friend's husband, in turn, works at one of the places on Colorado Boulevard.  Said place of employment sets out a few rows of seats in front of the operation, for its valued employees.  Because of the bit with the niece, they booked up nearly 20 seats there (for friends and family) and we all cheered for Megan up there (Cynthia, in the press releases).  They got really good seats, too.  I didn't entirely know what to expect -- perhaps some seats on the sidewalk with a few rows of people (who had camped out) in front of us.  This, in fact, is where I was sitting:

That's my foot, my tea (and that nice Lacoste bag someone gave me for my Bat Mitzvah that, yes, I am still using 30 years later).  The significant thing here is that blue line on which my bag and tea are sitting.  That's the "honor line."  It's painted on both sides of Colorado Blvd., a few feet into the street from the sidewalk, and you (and your belongings) are not allowed to cross it.  In other words, I was sitting in a nice folding chair in the front damn row, with nobody allowed to get any closer.  Awesome.  (I now feel much better about the thousand bucks I've spent on eyeglasses at this establishment over the years.)

Most of the photos are self-explanatory.  I was particularly moved by the Donate Life float:

OK, in this float:

there were some folks riding inside.  Most of them were smiling and waving.  The one in the blue, er, wasn't:

You can't quite see it, although you can certainly tell by her hand position.  Girlfriend was texting.  (Or tweeting, or live blogging the parade, or whatever.)  Some guy behind me shouted, "Stop texting and wave!" and she had the good sense to look embarrassed and give us a half-assed wave before going back to her blackberry.  Apparently, the City of Glendale (the float's sponsor) already took some hits for a design that included a Circus Elephant (the title is "Just Imagine the Music, Fun, and Freedom" -- apparently, the circus elephant is imagining what it would be like to not cart around a bunch of teenagers), and I think they need to reconsider their riders (or, at least, give them some instructions on proper float-riding etiquette), because this is not cool. 

Oh, and these guys?  

There are several groups of them walking the parade route (strategically placed after most equestrian units).  They tended to get really huge applause as they went by, and some of them -- if they didn't have any poop to scoop -- would raise their shovels over their heads triumphantly, to further cheers from the crowd.  (Yo, Glendale girl -- THAT is the way to behave when you're in the Rose Parade.)

In fact, they were not placed after all the equestrian units, which led to the question:  what happens when a marching band follows an equestrian unit.  The first such incident occurred with the US Marine Corps marching band (which followed the USMC mounted color guard).  There was a big pile of horse poop in the center of the street, and the marching band deftly went around it -- you couldn't see anyone break ranks, but, when they passed by, the poop was still intact.

A High School band later was not so skillful.  ("You're dancing in poop!")

I think all the rest of the pictures are just floats.  No, wait.  Does everybody know this guy?

That's Raul Rodriguez, float designer extraordinaire.  He is riding on the 500th float he has designed for the Rose Parade.  That's, like, eleven whole parades worth of floats.  He's clearly the go-to guy for your float designs and, this year, his floats won another stack of awards.

OK, now the rest of the pictures are just floats.  :)

You may wonder if I stayed to see the "Occupy" float.  Here's what you need to know about the Rose Parade.  It ends with the Parade of Tow Trucks -- half a dozen (or more) trucks, moving slowly and honking their horns.  The Parade of Tow Trucks is followed by the Parade of People Going Back to Their Cars.  During the slow passage of the tow trucks, everyone around me gathered up their stuff and started walking away.  Within minutes of the end of the parade, the seats were cleared (and already being folded up), and the street was mobbed by people going every which way.  Possible that the Occupy folks were behind the teeming masses, but, honestly, it was too much of a mad house for me to wait around for them.  Had they (and their police presence) come marching down immediately on the heels of the tow trucks, I could see us sticking around to see what they'd come up with.  As it was, though, I have no idea how the thousand or so Occupy folks managed against the 900,000 or so trying to get back to their cars.

Happy New Year, everyone!