Sunday, June 27, 2010

Change and Letting Go.

I had so many different thoughts on what I could post about and wasn't sure what, if anything, I should actually write about. Then I realized the common theme in everything that's been going on lately. Change and having, or learning, to let go.

I am in the midst of changing jobs. The transition will take awhile but it has been a pretty big stressor in my life these days, even though the choice was mine. I was approached about an assignment in my organization that my career advisor thought would be a good opportunity, as it is a promotion. I met with the manager and employees of the branch and decided to accept the position. I still keep my old job, it will be waiting for me whenever I want to come back, but the idea is to work for this other branch for a year.  It might also lead to other opportunities not currently available to me in my branch.  It's a good thing, I think. It is still a research based position but it's outside my field and I know the expertise in the unit is not as strong as mine in terms of quality quantitative research. So I expect some challenges but that is also part of why they want me, to strengthen the research program. As an extra bonus, my new boss is a rider! During a meeting with her I kept eyeballing a Greenhawk (tack shop) calendar in her office. I found an appropriate time to bring it up and it turns out she knows my coach. So at least we start off with something in common!  So I'm learning to let go of the career path I thought I'd take and my current branch will have to learn to get along without me. I think I have the easier task ;)

My husband left a few days ago for his summer field season. It'll be 59 days altogether. So I alowwed 1.5 days of feeling like a fish out of water and then I had to start letting that go and moving forward with a new routine. To be honest, it pretty much sucks. I hate wishing the summer away. But I'm trying to use the opportunity to re-establish some connections and socialize a little more. I find this hard!

And now, horse stuff!  I had a very dissatisfying lesson last week. I was not in a good frame of mind - I was distracted by my husbands upcoming departure and also had particularly acute PMS. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty emotional! I felt like crying a few times during the lesson, which is not like me at all. When things go wrong I typically just give my head a shake, gather my concentration, and try again. I was actually starting to lose my confidence, which is strange because I'm usually game for anything. I ended up bending my thumb back on Brumby's crest as we landed a jump, our last of the lesson. It was stupid but hurt a lot and I cried my way back to the barn.

So this week, my coach suggested I ride another horse so I could do some fences on a less complicated horse to help with my confidence. He is a Canadian and different as night and day from Brumby. Canadians are an interesting breed, I found him similar to a Fjord in many ways. I was very surprised at how athletic he was and we jumped a small course of fences about 2'3" to 2'9". It was very fun but I don't think it's the kind of horse I'm interested in riding long-term.

I was totally starting to psych myself out about my ability to ride him. I don't know why I do this to myself! My coach was telling me I'm too hard on myself and that I ride him every bit as well as his owner, so I shouldn't worry so much. Apparently we have a lot of the same issues. I find this confusing since I was told not that long ago about how well they were doing. On the other hand, some days I do really well too. It's easier to focus on the negative though. I need to change that.

Yesterday I went to the barn to watch Brumby's owner in a lesson. Although it was short, I saw enough to know that I should forget that she ever said I was less advanced than her. That might have been slightly true last October but I actually suspect it had more to do with figuring out a new horse than anything. I get fairly regular video of myself so I am able to watch myself fairly objectively, as compared to not being able to see "from the ground".  This change in perspective has helped me realize that I am being my own worst enemy and I need to let that go.
I hate to post without a photo, so here you go!

I've also realized that I'm so not used to the pace required when riding over fences, so it tends to feel very fast to me. This translates to me holding back too much and the horse fighting with me. The result is not getting the right distances and me feeling out of control. So I've been working on letting go, quite literally.

Change is hard. But it is an element of all aspects of life, so it's better to try to let go of our comfort zones and embrace the change, as much as possible. At least that's what I'm telling myself!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I Have Tomatoes!

Okay, so they are teeny tiny little things, but I have tomatoes!! On June 17th. Do you know how incredibly early this is to get fruit set in my area?? Awesome!
See them?  This plant has three.

I didn't get good pictures since the light was getting low. I was just a little excited :) We thought they are both cherry varieties in those spaces but one looks suspiciously like a plum-type.
Definitely oblong...maybe it will round out?
Or maybe this was one of those last-
minute decisions I didn't record.

Update on the swallowtail caterpillars. It has been maturing well and has been very interesting to watch. There is some clear damage to the carrots but so far nothing devastating. This is it two days ago.
So cool!
I put a nice stick in the bed near it. It was a good thickness and had a nice crook in it which I figured it might like for "shelter". I also planted some parsley close by, in case they wanted options, lol. Then I got a pleasant surprise. I found another caterpillar that was slightly less mature. And my husband found two more, so we didn't lose as many as I thought! I did start to worry about the carrots again though.

Sadly, I didn't have to worry for long. I checked on them this morning and everyone was happily munching away. This evening I went out and couldn't find a single one. Then I saw a shriveled bit of yellow and black on the side of the bed. I'm guessing a bird got them but I'm really not sure. Why would it peck it and then leave it? I suppose it might have been scared away at that moment or decided it didn't like it. Either way, I am rather sad. It was nice to provide habitat for something wild. Oh well, there are always bunnies back there...and birds, of course.

Here are some other pictures I've taken from around my house.

Siberian Iris

Beet, carrot and cucumber bed as of today. 
Guarded by Hazel Hound.

See that lounge chair? Got it free from a neighbour down the street who was
getting rid of it. All I need to do is buy the cushion. I am happy!

Hazel wishing she could play with the kids next door. That is the kids' ball she has destroyed/made perfect (we have since replaced it).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Black Swallowtail Butterflies

On Friday, I was inspecting the bed that has the cucumber, carrots, and beets in it. I noticed one carrot that needed to be thinned out. It was a late starter and was very close to another, more mature carrot, so I plucked it out. Just before tossing it aside, I noticed a little dark spec on it. It was some kind of larvae or caterpillar. It looked a little bit like a lady bug larvae, but not quite. I discovered about 5 others on the carrots, they weren't on any other plants.

You've probably guessed by the title that what I discovered were the larvae of the black swallowtail butterfly.

So I've been reading up on these guys a little bit. I learned that they lay their eggs on plants in the carrot family, especially carrots (duh), parsley, fennel, dill and Queen Anne's Lace. It amazes me how my 2 rows of carrots, surrounded by decidedly non-carrot plants, were found by these butterflies.

I also learned that butterflies go through growth stages, called instars. I determined that my caterpillars were in their 1st instar.

1st Instar black swallowtail larvae on carrot.

I admit I was concerned about what they would do to my plants. I am used to garden enemies that I do not care about conserving whatsoever (think earwigs, ants, slugs) if it comes to my veggies or them. I do not use chemicals but there are many other ways to get rid of pests.  I was faced with a clash between two things I value. I really did not want to lose my crop of carrots. I also would not want to harm the swallowtail's chances. So I did the only reasonable thing, nothing :)

I decided to just see how things progressed and my plan B was to buy some parsley and relocate them to a corner of the yard. Well, the next day I could only find three of the caterpillars and they were already looking larger than the evening before. But the carrots seemed to only have minimal damage. I don't think it's enough to do long term damage at this point.

Today when I checked on them I was sad to find only one caterpillar. But the one left is truly amazing! I can't believe how much they change in such a short period of time.

2nd or 3rd instar black swallowtail caterpillar.

First thing tomorrow I am going to put a nice solid stick in the bed to give this guy a place to form a chrysalis. I've read they rarely do it on carrots because they are not all that sturdy but if you provide another stick they will often use that. Stay tuned for further developments.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bay Horse Tales

I had a pretty good ride yesterday evening. We definitely still had resistance and attitude but he was willing to be encouraged through it. The area where I'm riding right now has a dressage ring next to the jump field. For lessons, I usually warm up and do some dressage work in the ring and then head out to the jump field. Yesterday my coach suggested warming up in the field to take away that element of the equation. It seemed to help riding on the flat around all the jumps first. And there is still plenty of room to do some leg yields and shoulder in, so it works well.

I still had some issues at the canter to the left. I can get a nice rhythm going briefly if I make regular large circles but it still isn't pretty. I've never had such a hard time catching and correcting a dropped shoulder! I do get it sometimes but if I don't catch it and it drops there is almost no hope of correcting it. I have a picture of us circling at this crazy angle and my face says it all. I'm not sharing that one, I post enough embarrassing photos! This issue is nothing new but is harder to deal with outside.

Things were going well enough that we worked on a gymnastic line again. We worked on trotting in again, similar to the day the pics from my last post were taken. Brumby anticipates all the time, he is on his own agenda, so asking him to trot in keeps him listening to my aids. Given his behaviour lately, this seemed like a smart schooling idea.

Trotting in is hard, lol. The rhythm seems all off and it's tricky to judge adequate pace. At first I had him going in too calmly so we lacked the forward impulsion needed to make it nice. Brumby can jump 3 feet from a standstill without a problem but it's pretty darn hard for a rider to go over a jump, pretty much stop and then hurl over the next fence. Once I got the pace it flowed much better and I stayed with him no problem. We ended up going up to a 2'9" oxer nicely, which isn't half bad given where we are right now.

I wonder if the initial increase in grain affected his attitude and now that he's been getting it awhile he's settled down some. This doesn't seem all that plausible to me but I don't know what else to think. He also had almost the whole week off work. This would tend to make me think he would be even more crazy but maybe he actually needed a rest. Frig, horses sure do keep you guessing.
It's simple, let me eat, 
play and nap all day!

In any case, my coach agrees that he's getting too much grain and she's talked to the owner already about it, recommending similar options to those mentioned in the comments. She is going to tactfully bring it up again. They also have an arrangement that our coach will ride him once a week for the next 4 weeks or so. This makes me happier than anything! She has pretty reasonable rates for training rides and it's not like Brumby is ready to show anyway, so the money might as well go into training. Obviously this will help in so many ways.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Defiant Horse (?)

My work with Brumby has been pretty good the last few months.  But in some ways the rollercoaster has started on it's downward track.

 I'm sure we've all known horses that could be stubborn. Horses that get tired and try to evade work, maybe try to head for home or even give a buck once in awhile. But I'm used to horses that, for the most part, work with you. In my view, a normal horse is fairly co-operative and willing to learn most of the time. One of the lesson horses I used to ride would get seriously pissed-off if you did something wrong or were too strong in your aids. I consider that within the range of normal - she had a reason for behaving that way and if you did things right she would give you some amazing work.

I am not used to a horse that constantly tests the rider and is generally defiant. This is, apparently, Brumby. A number of months ago I mentioned how much weight he had lost over the winter. His owner was thinking it was the stress of the abscess since he was very lame for quite awhile and was kept inside therefore separated from his buddies. But he just wasn't gaining it back as you would expect of a young gelding with free-choice hay and twice daily grain. About 3 weeks ago, his owner realized he wasn't getting nearly as much grain as other horses his size so she has been increasing it.

Within about a week I started having issues with him again and so did she. Although we were getting some good work in, I was also began having more issues with brakes, bucking, trying to go home...basically anything he could throw out to try to get his way. It is becoming difficult to balance ending on a good note and not letting him get away with the behaviour with not starting a battle I might not be able to finish. 
Not all bad.

His owner says this is the horse she knows him to be and attributes it to the increase in food (which includes sweet feed). She says he gets this attitude from his daddy. But his sire was extremely successful, so it must have been channeled better, I guess. I've mentioned that I think too much sugar could be part of the defiance issue, it doesn't always manifest itself as a "hot" horse in the typical sense. Apparently he was like this at the old barn with a "very bland" diet. But at that time he also had a saddle that was pinching him quite badly.

What do you guys think, is he just a grumpy gelding with a poor work ethic? I know there are a million variables you don't know (or me either, for that matter) but I'm curious if you think some horses just have a strongly defiant attitude and don't really like to work with people.  As I said, I've never met a horse with an attitude quite like this.  Or is it more likely that some outside factor (e.g., feed, pain) is influencing this behaviour. His saddle was professionally fit in the fall by the most respected fitter in our area. He saw the vet for vaccines & herd health stuff in the spring and no issues came up that I know of.

Now, some pictures from a good day. We were working on a gymnastic of 3 jumps - trot in, a one stride, and a bounce. They were only about 2' but it was a very good exercise and not a bad start after not jumping in quite awhile. Hopefully this won't be the last good jumping lesson! I will cry.
Trotting in to the first "jump" the first time through.
The first time through is just two low elements.

One stride to a cavelletti.
Next a bounce was added.

Hmm, I think we took the first cross rail 
out and added this final element at the end. 
This became a little oxer later.
Never a dull moment, anyway.