Saturday, July 31, 2010

Eating habits

Four years ago I weighed 230 pounds. That was roughly 70 pounds ago.

I felt my riding sucked. Well, didn't suck completely, but wasn't what it should be. L is a perfectly stunning beast and we just weren't where I felt we should be. I thought long and hard about it and decided my weight was a problem. When I rode in a stock saddle my belly bounced off the horn. Bareback and English my balance sucked and I couldn't move the way I needed to move. I was in L's way as often as not.

So I gave up soda.

It was rather amazing. I lost almost 15 pounds in two weeks time.

I really wanted to get under 200 pounds. That was my goal. After I gave up the soda I thought maybe I should give up the snacks. So I did. I kept carrots and cucumbers and broccoli around in case I got desperate for a snack and I did now and then.

But the weight came off steadily. I lost the 30 pounds in maybe 8 weeks or so. That got me under 200 but I kept on going.

It was around 180 pounds I started with smaller portion sizes and never looked back. I can't eat like I used to even when I want to.

I like to stay a little under 160 pounds and I never felt better.

But I didn't "diet". I changed the whole way I ate. I eat good. I just don't eat a lot.

I often eat appetizers for dinner. That was actually my friend J's idea. We'd go out to eat and the portion sizes were just too big and we'd be ready to pop by the time we were done dinner. So one day she says "let's just get appetizers". Which is what we did and found it was "just right" - kind of a smack your forehead moment. I often do that at home too.

I fix bruschetta and crostini a lot. Here's crostini with mushrooms and corn:

The topping:

I sauté two finely chopped shallots and 6 or 8 ounces of sliced crimini mushrooms in butter with a liberal pinch of salt and then add 4 ounces of corn and let it cool. I take 3 or 4 slices from a bagette and toast them golden brown, both sides, under a broiler. Paint on some extra virgin olive oil and top with the mushroom and corn mixture.

I added some chopped parsely to this one. Yes, it's dried parsley. Hey, I like dried parsely. I'd think most people would want fresh but I don't think it goes well with this. I'd say skip it. Goes great with a glass of chianti.

So, my very own dieting tip: have an appetizer, skip dinner.

I might have a salad too. Look! This lettuce came from my sad little garden!

Oh and yes, I ride better since having lost that weight and I'm *sure* L appreciates it too! We're still not where we should be. But we are pretty comfortable with each other.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not now, I'm having a "issue"

Here. An unrelated pretty L picture:

We were out lapping the eggplant today when I heard a Harley turn into a nearby street. And of course he (she?) stepped on it. I felt a tremble ripple through L and she got all kinds of anxious. She got all woofy and spun around and she started spooking at *everything*. She leaped and spun and she almost landed in the eggplant when, horrified at the prospect, she leap frogged back outta there. I put a little extra leg on her - telling her to stop being stupid - and she snapped her head around and bit my leg.

I laughed so hard I almost fell off of her.

It's nice to communicate so well. I told her to "cut the crap". And she told me "Not now! I'm having an *issue*. Duh.". It's like when she kicks my feet. We have conversation. Sometimes she thinks I'm an idiot. Horses really are very funny animals.

We had a lovely ride. Although L does take advantage. There's something wrong if she doesn't.

Mares aren't for everyone. Some find that kind of behavior disturbs them. But I swear I wouldn't take a million dollars for my L.

Monday, July 19, 2010

No thanks, I don't smoke

I like to smoke. Cigarettes. I smoked two packs a day for 42 years. Maybe 43.

I'd tried to quit several times. It's very hard.

I finally just decided I didn't want to do it anymore. It's not the cost. Cigarettes don't cost as much as you think. It's not in the interests of good health. C'mon, cigarettes have been called "cancer sticks" since before I was born. You really think I don't know they're not good for you? Show me all the pictures of icky smoker's lungs you want, people that don't smoke, and never did, don't understand the addict's mentality. My dad died of lung cancer. It's not pretty. And watching him go didn't make me quit either.

Oh I've been harassed by loved ones. Given the "look" by colleagues. You forget the spirit of rebellion help get me started? The more society at large wants me to stop the more I want to do it.

And you forget too that back in the day we smoked everywhere. Even high school. When I was in high school we smoked in school. I don't mean in the bathrooms. I mean in the hallways and courtyards. So it really isn't just big tobacco. It was society allowed me to become an addict, but that's an essay in itself. But there's a line of logic that says it's your fault too. And you can look at me like I'm poisoning you every time I light up. Truth is I don't care.

And it's hard to let go of what.. I think anyway, is the last remnant of my reckless youth.

But it's an awful habit and the best way to not do it is to not start.

A week ago yesterday, Sunday, July the 11th, was a milestone of sorts. It was the first day I didn't know, right off the top of my head, how long it had been since I smoked my last cigarette. I had to stop and think about it.

For the record, I smoked my last cigarette 80 days ago today.

And I stopped because I just didn't want to do it any more.

And interestingly enough, I would love to smoke a butt. And if I thought I could smoke a butt and just put them down for another 80 days I'd do it. And at the same time I don't want to do it. There's nothing rational about it.

I know if I have just one puff, I'm going to sit down and I'm going to smoke a pack. I'm going to sit there and light one right off the other until they're gone. And then I'll go get some more.

So I'm not gonna do it. No sir.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Sweety doesn't like the summer heat like I do!

One obvious thing to help make your horse more comfortable, especially if they have a thick, luxurious mane, is to band it so air can get under it and help cool them off a little.

On days like this we don't really work. Maybe a couple of circles left and right to stretch but that's it. Then we just do a little 20 or 30 minute bareback pony ride. There was a little breeze today and it was actually kind of nice in the shaded woods but holy crap the deer flies were just awful! Maybe 50 feet or so from the woods we were descended upon!

So we went off to lap the fields. A good head shake to get rid of the last of those pesky bugs!

Much better. Off on the left there is a couple of acres of eggplant. Yum!

Take a left at the eggplant and oh my! Look at all that hay!

She was a little bit of a pill lapping the hay fields. All she wanted to do was eat! You'd think she'd been just starving to death I swear. So I had to get all mean and then she was really awesome.

Make no mistake. If anyone wants to know:

It's not the heat it's the humidity!


If we do any real work in this kind of heat I'll hose her down. But when it's both hot and humid the water doesn't evaporate and in a few minutes she'll just be all covered in hot water. Even after scraping the water she's still just covered in hot water.

So I sponged her down good with a linament solution when we were done. A linament solution will help her be more comfortable. I just kinda wing it. Maybe 6 or 8 ounces of Absorbine in a gallon of icy cold water. I use a big sponge, start at her feet, get her good and wet but not soaking, and by the time I get to the top of her legs she's making faces.

After I worked that around and scraped her down and let some air move around her, I put her away and I went and had one of these:

I like the seasonal brews.

I would surely like to have done a few miles in the woods. The woods are relatively cool and they smell so good this time of year but all things considered, ya, this was a nice day. Just like I thought it would be.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


This is simply one of my most favorite things in the whole world:

L came home halter broke and that's it. How long do you think it took us to reliably just have a pleasant walk together?

Oh, she'd lead just fine and she could be handled safely in a day or two. Of course we did showmanship early on and typically after our ground work we'd go out and hand graze. No, her manners on our way out to hand graze weren't always perfect. Sometimes they were pretty awful. So I decided when we'd hand graze we'd quietly and pleasantly walk a quarter mile or so to just work on her manners. L is a most dominant animal. Well. I had no idea. No clue at all. A quarter mile walk with L was like going a round with a prize fighter. She'd fight with me every step of the way and fighting with L is not fun. She's bigger than I am, she's stronger than I am, and she can last longer than I can. And frankly, sometimes I think she likes it. Fighting. Walking with L was awful. It was exhausting.

I was determined to fix it.

She'd crowd me and I'd push her off. She'd try to get out in front of me and I'd snap her lead. She'd lean and pull and I'd have us halt. She'd crowd me and lean and pull and get out in front of me and I'd halt her and back her up. That would really piss her off. And she'd shake her head and stomp her feet. It's actually very funny and persists to this day - when there's an issue she acts like you're the one that doesn't get it. She'll spin and rear and stomp her feet (when she stomps both feet at the same time she's really pitching a fit) and she looks at you like she's thinking "*what* is your problem?!" and it's hard not to laugh out loud. You can't do that of course. Horses know laughter is a good thing. But this was every 2 or 3 strides for a quarter mile and it was tiresome.

This went on a couple of days a week for 2 or 3 months and we got *nowhere*. It was very frustrating. I used a flat halter. I used a chain. I used a rope halter. I used a dressage whip. I used a crop. I used a lunge line. She's a tough nut to crack. She really is.

Obviously I had to do something different. So. Contrary to my trainer's advice (*you* choose the speed, *always*), I decided I'd go ahead and move at her pace. I like my horse's ear right around my shoulder with their nostril just behind my wrist on a loose lead. L has a very forward attitude and for years her stride was best described as "stomp stomp stomp..." and it was hard to keep up with her. But I did that for a few weeks. I was hoping she'd get the message "this is where you're supposed to be all the time. At the end of 3 weeks or so I started to change the pace a little, just a few strides here and there. And I'd bark at her and give her lead a little snap when she didn't notice I'd changed the pace. If I could just get 2 strides from her at my pace without a fight I'd pat her and make happy voices and then we'd move on.

Slowly over time I'd change the pace for longer and longer stretches. Three strides. Four strides. I'd make her pay attention every step and when she got it without a fight I'd pat her and do happy voice. After a couple of months we started walking a half mile on our way out to graze and all together after 5 months or so we could go out and reliably have a perfectly pleasant walk together. L would maintain her perfect manners for whatever distance I chose for us.

I'm not a professional horse trainer. Hell I'm not an amateur horse trainer either. I'm just a guy with a nice horse. We trained really hard, 2 or 3 days a week, for 5 months, to just go out and take a nice walk. We got to know each other much better and of course that made a big impact on our training moving forward. It's all training really.

I further refined this as our "comfort zone". It's great exercise for me and "takin' a walk" is our quiet place. When things look like they might get out of hand we can (almost..) always "assume the position" and walk. She knows *exactly* what I expect and it's *not* too much to ask for.

It's become one of my most favorite things and I try to walk with L for at least a mile, sometimes 2 or 3, a couple of days a week. I still change up the pace just to keep her on her toes and if she doesn't notice? An exaggerated little gasp will get her attention. If she really isn't paying any attention at all I'll abruptly change direction, about face, and she'll come right around without taking up any slack in the lead. That's nice. We can go right down to a crawl without any drama but we can't really do a slow motion walk together. Smart as she is she doesn't quite get the "move feet slowly" part of a slow mo walk.

I miss our walking something awful in the wintertime and there are a couple of weeks during the summer when the bugs are *so* bad it just isn't pleasant for either of us.

Here, I'll want to remember this the middle of next winter. This was around 7:00 am today. Looks like it will be a real nice day.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Groundhog Day!

No really. He's eating a potato chip. What.

Well we can't just turn him loose. He'll make holes! Horsemen *hate* woodchucks!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My sad little garden

Channeling my inner Oliver Douglas:

I live in a condo and I board my horses. Sometimes I really miss having a farmer's porch and a garden. I never miss cutting grass and shoveling snow. But every time I think it's time to move I look out my living room window and say not just yet.

This is my view to the west:

And my view to the south is better. Did you know views are appraised? My view is 18% of my property value according to my last appraisal. I love my view.

But I still miss having a garden. Every year I mean to ask the BM/Trainer for a few square feet to plant some lettuce or squash or some such thing. But every year I have a bunch of excuses. Spring is a busy time of year anyway and even though we're practically family around our barn my planting a garden would cross some boundaries I'm sure.

This year I said screw it. I picked some trays out of the recycle bin, poked some drain holes in them, filled them with soil and I planted some lettuce and cucumbers. It worked out so well I stopped and got a couple of aluminum foil roasting pans a couple of weeks later and I filled those with soil and put in some mixed greens and basil. I put them out in a discreet corner of the property and nobody even knows they're there.

I got my seeds at the dollar store. My squash didn't come up. Bad seeds I s'pose. But all I need is say, .. 2 heads of lettuce and a couple of cucumbers and whatever else I get is free food!

Sad as my little garden might be, look!

Another week or two and I'll be eating salad!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Support your local farmer

I live in a town that has a Community Farm. Property purchased by the town several years ago as part of the community preservation effort was developed into a community farm as a nod to our rural roots. Produce is sold on the farm stand on the property 4 days a week. I stopped the other night and found excellent quality lettuce, cucumbers and basil. The local produce is one of the joys of the season. Keep local sources of quality produce viable - visit your local farm stand!

Being with my horses makes me feel close to the earth and close to natural things. Preparing food with local, high quality, seasonal ingredients is just another part of that whole close to the earth rhythm of life thing. I'd hate to see it go away.

We're having a gangbusters season this year in the metro west Boston area. The Farmer's Market has field tomatoes for sale and I'm told Kelly's Farm Stand even has their corn for sale already.

I never liked pesto much until I started making my own.

I find it's the garlic mostly and obviously your choice of olive oil will have a huge impact on your pesto!

1. 2 cups fresh basil, packed
2. 1/3 cup or toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts
3. 1 teaspoon lemon zest
4. 4 cloves garlic
5. Pinch of salt
6. Fresh ground pepper to taste
7. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
8. 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Just whir all that together in a food processor or a blender. This makes 2 servings. I love it with chianti.

And you can freeze pesto! Leave out the cheese if you're going to freeze it. The cheese doesn't freeze very well. Add the cheese when you thaw it for serving. I understand it will keep for 2 or 3 months anyway. Use those little 2 oz. plastic containers lined with baggies to freeze your pesto.

Hanging around the shed... really hard work.

That's L on the left, and her little half sister P on the right. P is 6 years old. They share the same mother and I often call L's little sister "Baby Huey". P is *huge*. P is of course also 100% Canadian. Canadian Horse registration requires a DNA test.

They'd stay inside in this kind of weather if they didn't have their shed. They love their shed. And it's really quite hilarious. We'll bring them inside a little later and they'll be exhausted. No really. I mean like they were just given a sedative. They'll turn in their stall, heave a deep sigh, get all wobbly and droopy and just snooze away.

Yesterday the only place the bugs weren't ferocious was the round pen. So after lapping the hay field we went into the round pen and schooled for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. We really don't work hard in the heat. We were bugged by one bug that whole time. L was most awesome. She's had this "work ethic" going since she was maybe 3 and half years old and she takes her work very seriously. So much so it's really rather funny. This being a horse thing is serious business.

Product Review!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's a little warm out

This was Tuesday the 6th, in the shade, maybe around 1:00pm.

About as hot as it's been in maybe 2 years. I love the summer heat! My horses don't like it so much. No we didn't ride in that heat. I know L would have been a good sport about it but it really wouldn't have been fair of me to ask.

It was a perfect day for a bath! I had them out for baths and otherwise kept them inside where it was noticeably cooler. It was still dry and breezy most of the day but they would have been uncomfortable outside and the bugs were just awful! The bugs wait by the woods. Horses! Scramble the Green Heads! The Deer Flies are bad enough but those Green Heads are really evil little stinkers. Nothing makes them go away.

You know it's getting hot when kitty curls up with the toilet.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

She loves her hay!

L just loves her hay! I love this video. The hay that hits the floor when you're handing it out is always the best. Turn up the sound!

I *love* listening to horses eat.

I remember a summer night years ago, had to be oh, 12 or 13 years ago I'm sure. I decided I'd clean some tack after work. I always do this. I'm thinking "oh this won't be so bad" only to find myself still sitting there 3 hours later wondering whatever possessed me to think this was a good idea?! I still do it.

So there I was still sitting there going over the tooling of my stock saddle with a toothbrush long after everyone's gone home in a barn full of horses eating their hay. How nice! It's like listening to rain fall on the roof. Between that and the crickets in the grass it's a recollection I'm very fond of.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth of July sunset

The view from my living room window as the sun was setting last night. How cool is that!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ok, yes, yes I did fall off my horse.

No no, I'm not *that* stupid. I was wearing a helmet! Wear a helmet when you do this stuff! I just don't understand people that don't wear helmets when they ride. Trust me, I do know about this stuff. Do you *really* want your loved ones to know what it's like to have you not know them? Do you *really* want them to worry about you every minute of every day because you can't get back from the mailbox at the end of your own driveway without getting lost? Taking care of someone with a head injury is a very bad thing. Wear a helmet!

Horses make you humble. It's one of the things I enjoy about hanging out with horses. Some lessons though are a little harder than others. I've been riding almost exclusively bareback for the past 9 or 10 months. It's done wonders for my comfort level and it's done wonders for my seat. I'll use a pad if I plan on being out for more than an hour or so because I have a bony butt and well, I wouldn't want my bony butt on my back without a pad for a couple of hours.

So there we were having a great time. It was hot. And dry. A little breezy. My favorite kind of day. Fourth of July coming and I'm on vacation! Out riding Sweety bareback. Yay!
It was our first lap, just warming up, I was being a slob and I'm thinking well aren't we so cool. I really should have known better. Hardly a minute later I'm lying in a heap in the dust and Sweety's off eating grass. I hate it when that happens.

I probably could have stayed with her if I'd have thought to grab for her mane. But I made a grab for the reins and I've worked too hard on soft hands. Soon as I realized I was grabbing for the reins to hang on I let go. I'm not the fastest thinker sometimes. I could have hung on to her mane or even her neck - wouldn't be the first time - but things like this happen fast.

Well I gathered her up and climbed back on board and we went on to have a perfectly lovely ride. No real harm done. But I am getting too old to be falling off my horse.

But I confess yes, my butt's a little sore.

A nice vacation breakfast helped take some of the sting out. I just *love* Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Cheese in my omelette. The MOËT speaks for itself. The cup is filled with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Really good coffee. One of my most favorite.

And remember - always wear a helmet when you ride your horse! These guys even hand out free helmets.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Best thing I ever ate? Maybe!

Homemade fish sticks!

These might very well be just about the best thing I ever ate.

Halibut fish sticks.

Cut a halibut filet into fish stick size strips. Rinse and dry them. Coat them with flour, shake off the excess, dip in whisked whole egg, coat with seasoned bread crumbs. I use bread crumbs from homemade bread. I think it makes a world of difference. So much so that I make homemade bread sometimes just to make bread crumbs with it. In a pinch use some bread from the bakery. Don't *ever* use those things in the can. Panko might be pretty good but frankly the homemade crumbs are so good I haven't tried panko.

I put the breaded halibut sticks in a cast iron skillet with maybe a quarter cup of hot canola oil. Fry them for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

I had them with tartar sauce and fennel/apple slaw. And a lemon wedge. And some parsley. Just for looks.

Now, the tartar sauce - I make my own, basic stuff, pretty much equal parts Hellman's lite mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish but I add a little finely chopped preserved lemon and chopped cilantro. Chopped cilantro in tartar sauce is OMG good. I have it on crab cakes all the time. Try it.

What's with halibut this year? It costs a fortune!

Oh. Pinot grigio goes great with them. I'd think a chardonnay will too.

Competition. It's about the training.

Gee - you'd think I knew what was I doing!

I'm not really a competitive person. Competing and showing just isn't my passion. I do think it's important for a horseman to know how to show his horse and I think a few trips around the show ring is part of a well trained horse's experience.
But showing L is fun. She likes it. She has presence and when she flips on the high beams she's positively stunning.

We're not competing this season and I'm surprised I miss it a little. It feels odd.

Showing and competing is about the training. Something to do with your horse. I remember Thanksgiving Day in 1986. I was driving to my parent's house for dinner. It was around 11:00 am, it was cold and snowing like a bastard. I drove by a stable and there, in the snow, was some guy riding his horse. And I think that was when I was first struck by the drive some people have to do this stuff. When I see people with their horses in competition I see the hours and hours of training behind it.

That takes real passion.

I have to admit though - the year L took a Grand Champion rosette was quite the thrill, it really was. I still don't think that was her best showing. Well maybe it was.
But there was one weekend, one year, she had the magic and she was spot on, she looked good and every move she made she was spot on. For whatever reason the judge just wasn't impressed and I think the best we did was pin 3rd. Judges are like that sometimes and some people find it harder to accept than others. But I was impressed. She had focus, she behaved beautifully, she hit all her marks and I found her to be "reassuring" and felt we had a real partnership coming together.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...