Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My comedienne

My trainer has been giving me some crap about L's manners lately. Seems she doesn't think twice about snatching up grass when she's being led to pasture and back. I swear she hasn't given me a whisper of a problem.

Then Sunday I'm leading her out to pasture and ... she drops her head and starts snatching mouthfuls of grass! So I whacked her. She ignored me. Completely. So I'm whacking her as fast as I can and I finally get her attention and she lifts up with a mouthful of grass. So I backed her up a few steps and she's staring at me with this mouthful of grass and a really hurt expression. She won't even chew her grass. I almost feel bad.

Now this grass has a root ball attached to it.

So I step in to continue leading her and...she starts knocking the root ball off of her grass. On my *shoulder*. She's just doing this whacka whacka whacka thing with the root ball on my shoulder. So I'm screaming at her and I'm whacking her and she stops and she's looking at me like she's thinking "what?".

By then I was laughing too hard to do a satisfactory follow up so I just finished leading her out and turned her loose. I'm sure she was thinking I was just being temperamental.

When handling L she has to believe you know what she's thinking. Oh, that's true for most horses but especially so for L. I'll go deeper into this when I chronicle some of our training - we're not near "finished" with our training, but basically, if she thinks you're not paying attention she'll be real quick to take advantage. And if she makes her move before you notice you're already at a big disadvantage.

It was very frustrating for a long time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What time is it?

No, it's not really 10 minutes to 2:00 (or 10 after 10:00)!

My paternal grandparents, as a matter of fact, basically all the paternal grand and great whatevers, worked at the Waltham Clock Company a hundred years or so ago. The family story is that my grandmother made this clock in 1929. And that one of her brothers, while employed by the Howard Clock Company made the case. And it's a prototype that never went into production.

That can't possibly be true. For one thing I think they were pretty much all gone by 1929. The grand and great whatevers. If the flu didn't get them tuberculosis did.

Oh, I'm sure the clock belonged to my grandparents and they may even have had something to do with its fabrication. But as far as I can tell, the movement, I think it has a model number 891 or 892 stamped in its plate, I should have taken a picture while it was apart, was only made from the 1890s up until 1914. There is something special about this clock however - some of the family story may be true - it is "non catalogued" and it may be a prototype or a custom build. It doesn't appear it was ever in production.

Edit 8 October 2011: I had occasion to remove the dial to service the clock.

Here, the number stamped on the plate is 1512. I think that's a serial number rather than a model number but I don't really know. If anyone knows anything about this clock please feel free to tell me about it!

The clock hasn't run in years and I recently had it serviced by Hills Antique Clocks and Richard Hills did a wonderful job servicing the clock. He faithfully restored the compound weight configuration and with the sole exception of the absence of the "Waltham" name on the dial, this is the original condition of the clock.

My grandfather made this watch for himself while he was employed at the factory:

It's a nice watch. It's a standard production model. Waltham was known for making very nice pocket watches at the time. The serial number dates this watch to 1915.

Which further suggests something in the neighborhood of 1914 for the clock might be a good guess. There could be something significant about 1929 sure, but it's not when the clock was made.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My horse's voice

Long before I became a horseman all horses sounded basically the same to me. Oh there was a distinctive voice here and there but they all sounded pretty much the same.

A few years ago at a huge horse show with hundreds of horses on hundreds of acres I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could tell my horse's voice. From hundreds of yards away in a barn with 50 or 60 horses in it I could hear my horse.

We had an issue a few days ago with a loose horse. I had turned a handful of horses out and I was cleaning stalls and I heard L calling out in her "hey! hey! we have a situation here!" voice. That's one of those alpha horse things. It was odd so I wandered on out to have a look just in time to see a loose horse go tearing by.

We got a hold of the loose horse after a while and it was funny L stopped screaming after she saw me come out of the barn. She's a smart girl.

I've heard people say horses aren't very expressive animals. Being prey animals they don't have a lot to say - they reveal themselves when they make noise and they know not to do that. It really isn't like it is in the movies. Horses don't scream, for example, when they fall down.

And I've heard people say they're not very expressive because their faces are so bony. Well. None of that is true. Horses are *very* expressive animals. You just have to know how to listen to a horse is all.

Summer is over. How sad. Fall isn't so bad. Harvest time is special in New England. We have apples and squash this time of year and comfort food season will be here soon. Wait until you see my pot roast recipe!

Here's my farewell to summer. Now *this* is a salad. Perfect with a bottle of your favorite chianti. Or even a pinot noir. But really, it doesn't get much better than this:

That, by the way, is a serving platter. It's not a dinner plate.

Salami and French bread does add a little something!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Autumn is in the air

Hey! These were green this morning!

The weather forecasters called Labor Day "meteorological Autumn". And six months or so ago they called March first "meteorological Spring". I've never heard either expression before. But "meteorological Spring" makes more sense to me. March first always felt kind of like Spring is in the air.

On Wednesday, September 8th, somebody threw a switch and this year it was instant on Autumn. Tuesday it was over 90 degrees and then since Wednesday, after some morning thunderstorms, it's been in the 70s. Crisp and breezy, nice in the sun and cold at night. Maybe the weather forecasters were right.

Around here at the first sign of Autumn folks polish the old Corvette ...

No, not my old Vette!

and enjoy Polo in the Country!

It was a nice day and we had a really good time! Far as we were concerned we had the best seat in the house. I'll reserve this seat again!

I just *love* polo ponies!

It's just amazing the way they can turn it on and turn it off. They're beautifully trained animals!

And while the teams rested in the shade at halftime...

We got to see Dorothy Morkis show us her stuff:

How cool is that! That was a real treat!

And the Norfolk Hunt Club hounds show us their stuff:

Another treat! The Norfolk Hunt Club has the oldest continuously operating hunt kennel in the country.

This is a really civilized game. Despite its heritage. You all know where polo comes from don't you?

And of course there were tailgating awards. This was my number one vote!

Of course you all know I like simple things. When the world seems like an ugly place who can resist a couple of little horses in hats. And a pumpkin for the season!

And my number 2 vote. How cute is this:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trust me on this one

Once you've had soy sauce on a fried egg you will never want to have a fried egg without soy sauce ever again.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Got my baby back

Sweety's got her mojo back!

After warming up and schooling we had a nice charge down the hay field:

Then we chased some turkeys around. The turkeys are everywhere this time of year.

Then we made our way through the brush...

Into the woods.

L is a most awesome trail horse! Trail riding is mostly what we do. And by now I think she knows her way around these woods better than I do.

I remember, early in L's training, 15 minutes in the saddle felt like a couple of hours. It was real work. And sometimes I thought I'd never get it.

Now I often lose all track of time. When L is attentive and fully engaged she's beautifully balanced. She's light with a lift in her stride and a swing in her barrel and a little push off her hips. It's just the best thing ever. Darned near puts me to sleep sometimes and a couple hours can go by like nobody's business.

This really is the greatest thing.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


The Labor Day Road Trip is a big ritual.

I used to spend summers here when I was a kid. A popular summer resort a couple hours from here. A week ago this would have been a mob scene.

A day or two after Labor Day and it's practically a ghost town. I love the contrast. I had my fill of the mob scene when I was a kid.

And I just can't get enough of the ghost town.

Every Labor Day I take the week off. Right after Labor Day I do the Road Trip and I go watch them close up shop.

I walk and I sit on the boardwalk...

I have a Big Mac!

Um. You gonna share those?

In just a day or two the whole rhythm of life here changes. Not a little. It changes a lot.

And here. Down at the other end of the lake. Likewise a mob scene just a day or two ago. A lovely day. It was quiet and peaceful. I swear I could have just sat here and watched the bay until it was dark. I had half a mind to do just that.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010


It's a good thing one of us knew where we were. It just wasn't me!

We don't have bad rides often. Well.. yesterday, L was a real stinker! She was just fine walking. And she'd do a really nice sitting jog. But when I'd start to rise and ask her to extend she got all kinds of pissy. She'd pin her ears and get crooked and toss her head and get all kinds of bumpy in her hind end. How much sense does that make?!

I don't know. She did something to her back? Sometimes her hip goes out. Back to a walk, fine. Jog? Fine. Extend? Nope, no way. Saddle slipped? No. Of course I'm not going to push her if she's having a problem. It's hard sometimes. She doesn't always tell me exactly what's wrong. She had more of a sweat going than she should have for what we were doing. Sometimes you have to be a mind reader I swear.

So I cool her off and I get her stuff off and rub her down and it becomes abundantly clear - she doesn't have a problem. Oh, not like what I was wondering anyway. She was just being a perfect ass! It's a mare thing. I went over her back. Her hips. and ... she's fine. Shoulders? Fine. Feet? Fine. Legs? Fine. Oh she was plenty "up" going to eat grass!

So today we go off and she's in heat. She's doing what I ask, she's doing it well, but she's cranking her tail about it. Oy me. A little bit crabby. I *finally* got her to move out and extend. When we're having issues I back off when I get what I want. My trainer, btw, doesn't always agree with that.

So we're cooling off and - I used to do this a lot with my crazy J, I pick out some paths through the grass and do "obstacle course" around the shrubs and taller grasses. I brought her close enough to some treacherous footing that she had to pay attention and she had a good time with it. I think she's been a little bored.

So I took her off into the woods. I just had us pick our way through the brush where the footing looked good and the trees wouldn't knock me off of her. After 15 minutes or so I got out the camera and I fiddle with the settings and I took some pictures. It didn't work out and I fiddled with the settings some more. I really wanted some pictures in the woods! By the time I got a couple of shots I thought were ok and put the camera back in my pocket I had no idea where we were. Not a clue.

Oh we weren't in deep trouble. I really don't think it's much more than a thousand acres of woods out there, and I could be wrong about that, but I was pretty confident we'd find our way back by dark. But still...a little disconcerting.

But L looked to me like she knew where she was. And where she was going. I left her on a really loose rein and just steered her such that I could clear the brush and it wasn't too long before I knew exactly where we were. How does she know this stuff? It's good one of us pays attention. She really is my rock star!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vacation wine

Some people have wine like this every day.

Not me. Actually, I think "not I" is grammatically correct. Whatever. This is special. This is ..."vacation wine".

I can't believe it's Labor Day. Where did the summer go?

I lost almost 80 pounds...to improve my riding. I gave up cigarettes. Just because I didn't want to do it (smoke cigarettes..) anymore. But the one thing I wanted to do for my good health was acquire a taste for red wine.

I'd been chugging white wine for years but I never really liked red wine.

Then..maybe 4 years ago, my friend and colleague Rui, gave me a bottle of red wine for Christmas. It was something from Abruzzi if I recall correctly. I had it with some marinara and pasta and...it was..*delicious*. The wine made the marinara taste better. The marinara made the wine taste better. I *really* enjoyed them together. The little things that people do that have a huge impact on one's life. Soon afterwards I tried some chianti. I remember chianti from Italian dinners when I was younger. Hasn't everyone had a nice Italian dinner with that chianti in a basket?

Well it turns out I just love chianti. I say... when in doubt? Try some chianti. Goes with just about everything.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Who picked whom? Part 1.

L on October 26th, 2003, 2 years old.

2003 had been a very bad year.

I'd lost my crazy OTTB over the wintertime. We had been treating him for EPM since November (2002) and while there was an occasional encouraging sign it was a losing battle. My J was dumb as a post but he was as lovable a creature as there ever was. Somehow he and I came to an understanding and we took care of each other. He taught me a lot. I think he was 15 years old and whatever the case, he still had a lot left. I still miss him something awful.

We had several Canadian Horses in our barn. They were all black. Everybody wants black Canadian Horses. I had known of Canadian Horses for a year or two before I knew they came in chestnut. I'm kinda partial to chestnut horses. That's important.

So over the summertime I half leased a lovely (black) Canadian mare. I think she was 4 years old. Green as can be. She was (is) a perfectly lovely animal. Of course she wasn't mine so I was careful not to get too attached. Just as well. There were some barn issues and some drama. Things didn't work out.

By the way. I think every barn needs one of these:

Maybe I'll have some made.

I was half heartedly looking for a Spotted Draft Horse in the fall when it came time to take my B for the long walk. B was my Quarter Horse. He was my first horse. He'd had navicular disease, a painful bone disease in his front feet. It got to where he would hardly take a step without a couple of bute in him and it was time. I never knew his age but our best guess was he was maybe 23 or 24 years old.

It's fair to say in October 2003 I was in a funk of sorts.

My riding partner at the time, M, had also recently lost her horse. She had a arranged a shopping trip to Ferme Litjens in Quebec to look for a Canadian Horse.

I went along for the ride. I wasn't really shopping...

Added October 3, 2010: go on to part 2
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