Tag Archives: essay

How To Be A Grand Prix Parent

20 Dec

I hang around some very advanced parents.  Their parenting skills are at the Grand Prix level (to use a dressage analogy) and they get scores of 93.976 on their Parenting Freestyles and set world records.

I am still at Intro A (walk trot), though I am about to move myself up to Training Level 1.  That may be a mistake considering I am still getting 4s (“Marginal”) at Intro A.  Sometimes I get a 2 when I throw a big tantrum instead of moving forward.

My major fails include everything from Santa Claus to my inability to convey the inherent unfairness of life to a pre-teen.  If I were a Grand Prix parent, my kids would realize that if another child uses up the eraser on their pencil, they can just get another pencil out and use up that eraser as an act of revenge.  Oops, major parenting fail there.  Revenge is not good.  Back to Intro A.

If I were a Grand Prix parent, the kids would not spend lots of work getting out of less work.  They would willingly do their chores and even sing while they did them, like Fraulein Maria in the Sound of Music.   A Grand Prix parent would have a nice teaching story for the kids.  They hate my teaching stories.  Mine usually involve, “When I was your age…”  This type of teaching story gets a 1.  Or a zero.

If I were a Grand Prix parent, my kids would smile and hold the doors for each other instead of holding the door shut and not letting the other kid in.  They would eat stir-fried bok choy.

Yes, sometimes they can be sweet and loving.  That’s when I take pictures and post them on FaceBook so it looks like I am a Grand Prix parent.  Actually, I don’t.  Because I would have to use photoshop.  If I did that, I would just photoshop myself on the beach with a cool drink.

I would also not say things like, “I am not trimming a chicken’s beak!” when they ask if Henny’s beak is too long.  I would say, “Let me look, dear.  Oh, yes, that beak is looking in need of a trim.  Let me get my dremmel.”

The real problem with my parenting is the same problem most dressage riders have.  I just don’t have the right horse.  I have a miniature horse with no work ethic named Katie and need a large, well-trained horse.  One at least 13.3 hands tall.  I would be a great parent if someone would buy me a nice horse. Then I would ride off into the sunset.  I would be a Grand Prix parent.

How (Not) to Start a Blog

20 Dec

When I started a blog, I had no plan.  I had woken up with the brilliant idea that I wanted to blog.  I went to WordPress and typed in a blog address.  It was rejected.  I typed in about 25 more and they were all taken.  With a deep sigh, I looked out my window, and my eyes settled on this:


So with absolutely no foresight (which is my modus operendi),  I typed in my horse’s name.  Voila!  A user name not taken!  Absolutely no one wants to call their blog Macho Mojave!   I have won!

So I began typing about the weather.  Soon I realized that the weather was good for about two posts.

I went out and fed the horses.  I looked at my shaggy yak-like miniature horse Katie who had ruined her chances of being a cart horse by flipping my cart and leaving it with a bent shaft that haunts it to this day.  Katie made her usual cute face at me.

I went back inside and started typing.  The next thing I knew, Katie was giving advice.  So it became her blog.  With a Macho name.  I should start a new blog with a nice name.  But that would require planning.

The Blog of Unrideable Things

23 Oct


First it was my bike.  The gears locked up an unpedalable position and the front wheel threatened to fall off.  So I couldn’t ride it.  Then my kids got a pony that was too small for me to ride.  Slowly I ended up with a farm full of unridable things.

It was a source of secret shame.  I had horses but nothing to ride.  And I liked to ride.  Soon I realized I was not alone.  Tannia’s grandma has six evil ponies and she said she’d trade them all for one ridable horse.

Then a friend confessed she was horse shopping because she had 7 lame horses at home.  Two of them belonged to a boarder who had disappeared, but still.  Seven lame horses lived in her pasture.

As time went on, I discovered people who had unrideable pasture pets of every persuasion.  It is amazing how many ways there are for a horse to be unrideable.  One horse has a mystery lameness.  Another has early arthritis, navicular, neurologic problems, is a chronic spooker, has back problems, ringbone, is partially blind, was abused as a yearling, rears, etc.

If you think you have problems, try being a horse.  In my past, most horses I knew were rideable.  In that state of affairs, a lame or dangerous horse went on the slaughter truck. I am not condoning the way it was done.  As a teen my dream was to have a retirement farm and save them all.  I wonder if that karma has come back to get me.

I do only have three.  Two are minis and one is a pony, so that is technically only 1 unrideable horse if you add them up.  And the pony is drivable.  Kind of.  Needs work.  But they’re cute and bring me a lot of joy.

I got the gears on my bike fixed.  It still kind of squeaks and rattles, but it’s a 25 year old bike. It rides great and is a lot less fickle than a horse.

Why I Moved To The Country

22 Oct


I always felt a little too close to our neighbors when we lived in town.  One day I thought their house was on fire and peered over the fence to see them chain smoking on the back deck.

They also enjoyed burning all their trash in their fireplace.  The prevailing winds sent this eye-watering haze into our yard.

I approached them and they said they were just burning caterpillars.  That was a lot of caterpillars.  Finally I called the city.  The city made them buy trash pick up, which they hadn’t had since 1952.   Even though they now owned a snazzy blue plastic trash can, they still burned trash in their fireplace.  They tried to do it when we wouldn’t notice.  Like when it was 90 degrees and the kids were out in the wading pool.

I went over to their house, braving the toxic cloud and asked if they could please stop.  Mr. Neighbor came to the door eating a plate of spaghetti, his brow sweaty and  furrowed.    Silently he stared me down.  His wife came up behind him and said they were just burning old checks.  You know how important it is to burn those.

This went on for 16 years.  Though they got more stealthy and sometimes tried to burn it after 9 pm.

I should add that our houses were mere feet apart, separated by a geriatric fence that had been built in 1970 something.  We shared a small ice cube tray on top of the fence where they put peanuts for the squirrels.

They also had a large RV.  Think the largest RV you have ever seen- the size of a small bus.  They had a small driveway so they parked the RV on the road in front of our house.  The tall RV came just in front of our dining room window and we looked at it instead of our territorial view of other neighbors’ yards.

They parked it there for months at a time.  When they moved it,  their friends with RVs would come visit and camp out on the parking strip in front of our house.  They were all retired so they were there all the time.  They had a large slide out that stuck out into the road so we couldn’t see to back out of our driveway.  They played loud country music and had a poodle who barked incessantly.

When they ate dinner, we were usually eating dinner.  Our windows lined up so we had to watch them and their little poodle eat dinner and listen to country music.  They were entirely oblivious to being mere feet way from our kitchen and dining room windows and the fact that they were practically camping in our yard. They never introduced themselves, waved or acknowledged that we existed.

They stayed for weeks.

Meanwhile the neighbors, who had the standard juniper, rhodie and fir landscape, had a tree service come every few weeks and spray every bush and shrub in the yard with pesticides.  Because our yards were so close, spraying their trees meant half of our yard, including my veggie garden and lawn furniture got doused with spray.

So that was one motivation to move back to the country.  People warned me that in the country, people burn their trash and farmers spray their fields.  I said, it couldn’t possibly be any worse.

I am not a Dressage Queen

20 Oct


I am not a dressage queen, as you can see from my snazzy T-shirt over blue long underwear took.  You, too, can have this look at your next show.  I will explain how.

If you don’t know what a dressage test is, it’s a driven or ridden pattern in arena marked with letters.  You trot, circle, halt (or fall off) at various letters.  The test is approved and published by a prestigious horse committee of some sort.  They reached into a jar of letters, pulled them out randomly, put on blindfolds and stuck them on a prototype arena.  These letters are not alphabetical.  You enter at A, but the next letter is K.  There’s an M and a C and an E and a B  and an F all sitting there in no logical order for you to memorize.

Then you need to look at a test and memorize what to to between or at various illogical and memorized letters.  If you have a reader reading your test out loud you can only hope they don’t suffer from any form of dyslexia or happen to sneeze and lose their place and cue you to the wrong letter.

Then there’s a thing called a judge’s stand.  It’s a fancy table, sometimes with a scary canopy, at the end of the arena where the judge sits. The committee spent long hours figuring out how to make this table as scary as possible for a horse.  As your horse rounds the corner towards the judge’s stand they must pass the scary object and not spook.

So I decided to memorize ADT training test 1 (which I had already memorized since I never have advanced beyond this level) and take the outgrown riding pony to the show for a dressage test.

I packed a nice wool hunt coat to wear over my long underwear shirt.  I got to the show and put on the hunt coat and it was several sizes too small.  I had grabbed my kid’s hunt coat.  Every hunt coat looks pretty much the same until you put it on.  The sleeves were just below my elbow and it wouldn’t button.   Then they called me to go warm up.  I had to wear the long underwear shirt with my number on the back.  Not the classy impression I was hoping to make.

Pony entered the arena for some ground driving warm up and proceeded to whinny and  act like a giraffe with her head up.  This is not a spooky pony, but horses were whinnying in the stalls attached to the arena.  She calmed down in a few minutes and I hitched her up.  Off we went.  I should also admit that I had only driven pony three times this fall.  At a walk, mostly.  So I wasn’t sure what would happen when I asked her to trot.

I got a trot briefly, then an unauthorized walk.  I got her going again with my whip and was looking for the mystical letter X which lays in an ancient vortex in the center of the arena between the letters B and E, which are glued on opposite walls.  The holy grail of X was there somewhere, but apparently not where I was, as I stopped short.  But it was a nice stop.

So I saluted with my whip.  The judge looked at me with no response.  Oops.  I gave a big nod.  The judge nodded back and  we took off at the working trot.  We had to do an arena-wide circle.  I knew this could be bad.  But I had no idea how bad until I saw my own tire tracks.  The circle had an extra bulge like a a solar flare ready to shoot off the sun and decimate humanity.  The second circle lacked the bulge but was reminiscent of the Hindenburg before its fateful demise.

As I headed back to K or was it F the working trot had no momentum, except during a brief canter and lurch after I tapped her with the whip.  Pony generally doesn’t have momentum unless there is food involved.

But her trot was pretty.  This trot earned her many blues as a riding pony and when she collected today she was lovely.  I remembered to nod with my salute at x before exiting the arena and took a deep breath.  I had survived my test with the green pony who just needs better steering and conditioning.  We got a score of 64 which seemed generous, but I will take it.

The Legend of B-wert

20 Sep

photo 4

Long before we had Katie, we had a pony named B-wert.  You will notice many spellings of B-wert (bee-wurt), because we have no idea how to spell it.    Also, since this was so long ago, I had to draw B-wert from memory.

A friend had the brilliant idea that I should place a “pony wanted” ad on CL.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.   A nice lady emailed me back immediately, which should have been a red flag.

“I have a great pony gelding,”  she said,  “he’s ten hands and my stepdaughter rides him everywhere on trails.  I just want him to have a good home.  He’s free.  You sound like a good home.”

Or something to that effect.

We drove miles into the middle of nowhere, which also happened to be through a patch of rush hour traffic, with visions of adorable ponies dancing in our heads.

When we arrived, they were washing his tail.  I thought that was a bit odd since it was cold out.  They said they wanted to give him a bath so he looked nice for us.  I now know better.  If anyone is ever washing a horse’s tail when you arrive, run for your car.

He was kind of cute in an obese, bulgy, frizzy-maned Appaloosa sort of way.  He was a varnish roan POA/mini cross with a heart shape on his butt.  He actually had a second butt on top of his real butt.  Seriously.  I tried to draw it in the picture, but can’t do it justice.  His wide chest and short legs supported a true barrel-shaped middle.  Since the saddle just slid under his belly, the kids rode him bareback.   He walked and trotted fine, though not always where they wanted him to go.  The kids wanted him, of course.  I later discovered that they wanted every pony.

“What was his name again?”  I asked.

“Bwert,” she said.  “My husband brought him home one day from the neighbors’ and said that his name was Bwert.  Well, after we had him about a year, he suddenly remembered the B word was Bandit.  He had said his name was some B word.  But we just called him Bwert.”

Upon coming home, Bwert aka Bandit puffed himself up and headed for the hay.  Then diarrhea shot out the other end.  Every ten minutes.  All over the paddock.  We thought maybe he was a bit stressed.  But the next day and the next the same thing happened.  And the next.  We washed his tail, but it was futile.

Bwart also emitted the most horrible whinny whenever the pony mare left.  She could care less about him.  The neighbors were not impressed and asked us if we had a donkey.

The kids had a blissful week of riding Bwert up the road and around the property and avoiding diahrrea.

Then I made mistake of taking the vitamin bucket into his pen to fill his feed pan with his meager vitamin ration.   Due to exercise and sensible meals he no longer had a second butt on top of his rump.  So maybe he thought I was starving him.  He saw the bucket and took a running start, barreling over the top of me and sending the bucket flying.  He proceeded to scarf up the spilled vitamins as I lay stunned on my back.  I looked up, and from my vantage point, thought I saw something that shouldn’t be there.

It was a little bulgier than it should be back between his back legs.  I had never seen a gelding look quite like that.  But he wasn’t quite as obvious as a stallion.  So I had to feel back there.  Sure enough, not-quite-descended testicles.   I suspect no one wanted to pay for expensive cryptorchid gelding surgery on Bwert.

I called the old owner and said he was a stallion and I didn’t want a stallion.  And he ran me over.

“He’s a gelding,”  she said,  “but I never really looked.  I think the other owners gelded him.  They did everything themselves.  You’re probably just seeing scar tissue.  And he probably just thought the vitamins were grain.  You shouldn’t have gone in his paddock with grain.”

She didn’t believe me, but said she’d get him.  Fortunately her friend came to drive the truck and trailer.  I showed the owner the testicles, but she still didn’t believe me.  Her friend walked over, took one look and  and said, “yup, that’s a stallion”  and took his lead rope from me.

A few months later I saw him advertised for sale by another person on CL as gelding.  His price started at $800 and went down to $300 over the months, and I never knew what happened to him.  I felt like I should have emailed them and let them know, but ignorance is bliss.

The Last Blast of Summer

18 Aug

More Katie Pics

With the strange phenomenon called summer continuing, I haven’t been writing very much.  We haven’t seen much sun in recent years, so instead of being hunched up over a caffeinated beverage squinting in the gray gloom of the Pacific Northwest, I have been outdoors enjoying the sun.

And Katie, like Pigpen, emits a cloud of dust when she walks. Everything is dry.  It’s not quite dry enough to stop the grass from growing though. It’s green and dry. So we still have to mow.

The mornings are getting cold and fall is creeping up with the promise of chill and rain.  One day the sunshine will be over and the days will be viewed through windshield wipers and the hoods of raincoats.  It will be dark before 4 pm and not much brighter at noon.

Katie has one more show to humiliate me at this year.  It will be on Labor Day if we decide to go.  It depends on how much ego I need to burn if I will go.  People always think Katie looks cute as she humiliates me.

This show will involve jumping, so she will either fly over the jumps perfectly like she does at home or pretend to never have seen a jump in her life, stomp on my feet and knock over the ones she doesn’t refuse.  She might fly over one just to show she could do it if she wanted to.

We might also try Liberty class again.  In that class, I chase her around with a plastic bag on a stick while she spazzes out to Disco Inferno (her music).  Then I attempt to catch her when the music stops.  If she is really pissed off about being chased around with the plastic bag, she might not let me catch her.  Then we’d be disqualified.  Or she could want me to catch her and we’d get clapping and a ribbon.  Hopefully not a black ribbon, though.  She got a black ribbon for fourth place at the last show.  I put that one in the garage behind some stuff.

Katie makes sure I don’t get big ideas about winning fantastic prizes and world championships.   Every now and then she decides to be on my side and we end up with a good placing.  But I never expect one, because Katie’s not the kind of horse who aspires to worldly success.    World domination, maybe, but not worldly success.

Looks Aren’t Everything

2 Apr



In the miniature horse world, the desired look is a mini Arab.  You’ve all seen Arabs- they look like the Black Stallion floating across the pasture with tail flying, arched neck and dishy head.  They’re sleek and shiny.

I have a different kind of miniature horse.  He is shaggy and wider than he is tall.  He is often mistakenly thought to be pregnant.  He has a leg at each corner, just like a Thelwell pony.  He’s a red dun with tall black socks and a wide shaggy tail.  It’s hard to tell which end is the front in winter.

Every year, when we take him to the miniature horse show at the Fair, he places at the bottom of the pleasure driving class.  If there are more than six horses, he doesn’t place.  They only give six ribbons.  The sleek, slender mini Arabs win.

But after he leaves the ring, some fair-goer always says something like this: “I thought he was going to win.  He was my favorite.”  or “He was the cutest.  I like him best.”

People come up and ask to pet him.  Kids hug him.  They ask what breed he is and why he looks different.  They ask if he’s a Shetland pony.  People remember him year to year and come looking for him.  He’s cuddly and likes his fans.

My little horse is also good at things that take brains and aren’t judged on type or looks.  He always places first or second in obstacle driving at the show.  He can pivot the cart 360 ( or 270 or any degree) and the cart wheel never leaves its spot.  He can do advanced obstacles, like backing the cart into a box or around a tree.  He can crawl under or go through any fence, too.  He can open tubs of treats with his teeth and push open any gate you leave partially latched.

This is the kind of mini I love.  He’s not in style, but he’ll safely take you over any terrain, and not spook if a giant dump truck passes you on the road.  If the cart gets a flat, he’ll stand while you pump it up with a noisy electric pump.  He’ll get you out of tight corners, and you can count on him.  He will babysit kids and teach them to drive.  He will then test and teach them as they learn.  But he will not hurt them.  He takes his job seriously.

So mini Arabs are pretty, but don’t discount the shaggy old minis of yesteryear.