Monday, September 29, 2008

Two ponds

It's always on the perimeter of my consciousness. I can look at it directly if I want but usually, I choose not to.

The sensation that in some ways, life is passing me by. Missed plans, unavailable opportunities, DVDs returned unwatched.

We went fishing yesterday. A couple dozen feet from the pond we fished was another, indentical pond. The same type of fish and water weeds populated both ponds. The long skinny branches of weeping willows hung low over the still waters of each pond.

"I wonder if the fish in this pond realize that there is a world exactly like their own only thirty feet away?" I asked my husband.

"There's a little channel connecting the two down the road," he answered. "But I am sure there are fish that don't know that channel exists."

"What if that's Earth?" I said. "What if there's been another world exactly like ours right underneath our noses all along?"

But thinking some more, I realize there's another analogy here. I feel like a fish that knows about the other pond but can't access the channel that leads to it. I can try and try but I never quite get there. Fish returning from the other pond can offer me their interpretations if they wish, but it's never the same.

I am sometimes told that I'm lucky that I can't hear this or that. Well...not quite. If it's daytime (the hearing aid comes out at night!), then I probably hear the same annoyances that you do. However, when it comes to human voices, they are muddled 99.99% of the time. So perhaps in some cases, ignorance is bliss. But really, I'd rather be on the inside looking out, rather than the outside looking in.

I'd rather be a fish that can swim through the channel to the other pond.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A day at the races (or OTB)

Yesterday hosted a superstar lineup of Thoroughbred champions all across America. Of course we weren't going to miss it!

(Yes, husband is falling further in love with the Sport of Kings every week. But unlike me, he prefers to bet. I, for the most part, just like watching the parade of gorgeous horseflesh!)

There was Mauralakana, the French winner of the Beverly D. on Arlington Million Day, running in the Flower Bowl. Mauralakana's elated owner gave my farrier the jockey-helmet cuff links off his shirt after the dark bay filly flew under the finish line in front.

There was Ginger Punch, the fabulous chestnut mare, running in the Beldame Stakes.

Curlin sought to break the great Cigar's earnings record in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Then last, but not least, the undefeated Zenyatta was running in the Lady's Secret.

The results?

Mauralakana and Ginger Punch ran second in their respective races.

Curlin won the Gold Cup and became the first Thoroughbred to surpass $10 million in earnings. It was a bittersweet moment. On one hand, we saw what may be one of the truly great horses of the new century make history.

But on the other hand, Cigar, the prior record-holder, was the first great horse I watched in the 90's. Many of you, whether you are horse people or not, probably remember the big bay horse with the thick gray-tipped tail, Jerry Bailey clad in red, white, and blue silks atop his back. Few moments in racing can surpass Cigar's explosive surge of power around the turn for home in the 1995 Breeder's Cup Classic. I remember the flesh on my arms prickling, I remember my eyes stinging with tears of amazement and joy.

The great Cigar
(Kentucky Horse Park, '08)

But Curlin is an amazing horse, and if any horse were to surpass Cigar's record, he would be the right one.

And Zenyatta?

I have a soft spot in my heart for the fillies. My favorite racehorse of all time is Ruffian, and if you asked, I would admit that I think she is the greatest, period. Secretariat may have given us the 1973 Belmont Stakes but he was not without his flaws. In 1999, Man o' War was crowned the Horse of the Century by the Blood-Horse and he had many high points in his favor.

But show me another horse that has never allowed him or herself to be headed, and was in front at every pole, every call, of every race. Show me another horse that broke or equaled stakes or track records in every race but one. Show me another horse that was only shown the whip in two races--and one because the jockey just "wanted to see what she would do." (And what did she do? She won the race by 13 lengths). Show me another horse that ran times so fast, so blistering, that later, handicappers studying her times would realize that not only did she run some of the fastest times of the day, or the month, or the year, but of the past century, all with the floating ease of an earthly recinarnation of Pegasus.

Heywood Hale Brown said it best...

"With each of her tremendous gulps of ground, Ruffian seems determined to out-stride each stride just taken. And the idea of fatigue seems as alien to her as to those mythical beings who gathered strength each time they touched the Earth. So in every race, her margin suddenly and magically grows, as those behind her disappear into an awe-stricken wake, while alone and as yet unchallenged, she makes midair seem her proper home."

I have always considered Personal Ensign to be the second-greatest filly. Undefeated in 13 starts, she capped off her brilliant career with a narrow win by a nose in the 1988 Breeder's Cup Distaff. (Personal Ensign also shares a grandsire with Limerick--Damascus--which I guess makes them distant cousins of some sort! Not very relevant in the world of horses, I know, but still an interesting little fact.)


Zenyatta is quickly becoming one of the all-time top fillies, and in my heart she just may surpass Personal Ensign. Her style is to lag behind then slingshot far around the turn for home, sweep past the field and cruise to the wire as if the race was nothing more than a morning gallop, ears up, tail loose, rival horses running their hearts out in her wake. I won't say any more, lest I jinx her undefeated run (8 for 8), but I'll let you decide for yourself.

And yes, she is big and dark and breathtaking, just like Ruffian was.

Zenyatta vs. Ginger Punch
2008 Apple Blossom
Click to Watch


Friday, September 26, 2008

A move?

It has been three weeks and a day since Limerick got kicked. She is still lame at the trot. I’ve decided to have a vet take a look at her. However, due to the issues I’ve been having with my vet’s new secretary (not to mention the enormous bills that always follow in her wake), I may use someone else.

Last night I hand-walked Lim in the indoor arena. She probably doesn’t need it but I felt like spending some time alone with her. As it gets darker earlier, there are less people at the barn in the evening.

At one point, she heard something outside. She stopped and stood still. Head high, ears forward, nostrils flared—it was a classic Limerick pose, one I had been swayed by countless times. But this time, as I admired her, my throat locked up and waves of water overtook my vision.

Sometimes life is too much. Sometimes you have the shit piled on and on and on until you can’t take any more—not just little things, but big things, too. And when your one true salvation from the harshness of life is hurting and you’re helpless to stop it, it’s enough to push you over the edge.

I worry about the day that Limerick needs to be declared pasture-sound only and retired from riding. I don’t feel like she is ready for this but the day may be closer than I believe. I have spent far more weeks out of the saddle than in it this year and I’m not sure if that trend will reverse itself next year.

Meanwhile, board is expensive. I am not happy with how the stable is managed. I am not happy with how my apartment is managed. It is all so expensive. Why are we staying here? My husband wants to find a new job. My job is quite close.

I have been told about a stable in Minooka. It sounds wonderful. I’m guessing that apartments in Minooka are much cheaper, and according to Google Maps, Minooka is a 38-minute drive away from where I work. Granted, it’s probably more like an hour with the traffic but I can do it—I’ve done it before.

Oh but what of my poor old car, my Sonja? At least I’d be able to afford a new car if the commute accelerates (no pun intended) her aging.

Another option is to rent horse property. But we’ll see, we have a few months yet before our current lease expires.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

$2,800 more and....

I could just get a new '97 VW Jetta GLS!

Just plunked down another $513 on the car today for a tune-up. Last week's rains ruined the spark plug wiring. Combine that with the $420 for a new starter a couple weeks ago and I could buy this:

Oh wait, I already own that....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The birthday money

Three blog posts in a day! Must be a record. I forgot to note what I spent my birthday money on.

As you may recall, I was going to spend it on a McClellan saddle but unfortunately, it did not fit Lim Bean.

So the cash sat in my wallet for a while. As of Monday morning, it was totally spent. Here's the breakdown:


  1. Panera Bread with a friend - $20

  2. Cab fare to work, day after Labor Day (AKA the Day We Abandoned Sonja at Merlins) - $18

  3. Best Buy, two CDs (Slayer and Ministry*) - $35 (and my husband bought me a Rob Zombie CD to replace my White Zombie Astro-Creep 2000 CD stolen out of his old Saturn may moons ago)

  4. Dave & Busters - $10

  5. Cab fare to work, Monday morning - $17 (plus $1 in quarters!)

*Music, a great topic for another time. But no, I don't listen to metal because it's loud! I love it, as well as punk, but not because it's loud. We went to a Slayer concert a year ago and when the show started, I thought my eardrum (singular, since my right ear is completely gone) was going to explode!

I do also like classical music.

And the Wu Tang Clan!

The aforementioned ear-splitting (but awesome!!) concert.

Rain, rain, go away...and stay away!

Have I ever told you why I keep a big fat DayRunner full of neat, color-coded notes and list after hand-written list? I am no psychologist but I am convinced that my sorry brain is stricken with two parts OCD and one part ADHD...or maybe the other way around.

I constantly feel as if I'm forgetting something extremely important (and to add to the issue, while I am blessed with a vivid long-term memory, my short-term memory leaves something to be desired) and that forgetting this thing has dire consequences. As a result, I go through periods of the day where I check and re-check my DayRunner, and organize or re-write lists as needed.

It is easy for me to be overcome with anxiety and stress. I don't like sitting for long, except at the every end of the day. Otherwise I begin to worry that I'm forgetting something, or I think this or that task could be done. Why waste time on my ass? I wonder, and then I am up again. Running and my trips to the barn give me welcome relief. I am moving and I am busy, yet my brain is quiet.

Perhaps that is one reason I like being tattooed. When you are tattooed, you become purely physical. I can and do read during tattoo sessions but the words flow into one eye and out the other without truly registering. I do not worry, I do not stress. My brain is stone quiet. I am sitting perfectly still yet my body is alive with sensation!

If anything within my life is out of order, my head becomes a whirlpool of turmoil. Unfortunately, this has been tested many times over the past year. I have learned that while I feel like my brain is going to break in half at times, I have yet to snap, despite how far I've been bent on a couple occasions. I guess the mind is much more flexible than it can seem.

Now that we've established that I am crazy, let me tell you about my weekend.


We had planned to go into Chicago but the nonstop torrential rains put an end to that idea. Water seeped into my den again but I choose to ignore it--there is no furniture over the area (everything is still stacked into one half of the office; I had to write a note to myself and put it in my DayRunner--"It is OUT OF YOUR HANDS!") so what can you do? It is not my responsibility anymore; it is up to the apartment management to take the reins on this issue. So, what to do? Stay inside with the wet den?

"But a little rain will not stop me from visiting Limerick!" I thought. If I was still back in Chicago, I probably wouldn't go to the barn. But Lim was only a mile away, what excuse did I have?

Outside, the rain came down so hard that I gave up on staying dry. My windshield wipers beat as fast as they could and my soaked hair and clothes steamed up the inside of the car. Sections of road near the barn were partially flooded and I drove carefully. My car powered down and threatened to stall several times, even before I drove through any larger puddles. Well, maybe it wasn't a good idea to drive after all. But too late, we were almost there!

There was no one else at the barn. No big surprise. I told you that I constantly feel the need to be up and doing something; well, this applies no matter the weather.

Cut through the sodden weekend…

…heavy with errands and overzealous cabin-fever cleaning, and light on fun (although Dave & Busters did show my husband and I that, unfortunately, our future daughter will look like him. While I think my husband is the most handsome guy on Earth, his features are far too masculine for a little girl!)

Sunday evening.

My car won’t start. It tries and tries but the engine just won't turn over. My husband gives me a ride to the barn so I can feed Limerick. I discover that her bags of grain are wet, despite being on a pallet and beneath a tarp. She does not have enough grain in her bin to last her the week. Oh and even if I had a means to get there, doesn't the feed store close at 4:30?

And last but not least, Lim's left fore shoe is loose. The medial side is swinging free but the lateral side is still fairly tight. I put the "No Turnout" sign on her stall and apologize to Lim but I admit a part of me is glad that her feet won't need to be in three feet of swampy muck the next day.

Cut to Monday.

My husband tries my car in the morning and it does not start. I cab it to work. I find out the feed store has a 12-bag minimum for delivery but can make an exception due to the water damage. Score! But wait, there are surcharges? As you know, I pinch pennies when I can and the word surcharges does not ring well with me. Initially the date my farrier can come out is questionable but later he says he can meet me the next day, in the afternoon. I plan on duct-taping Lim's shoe to her hoof when I see her in the evening. She is on stall rest but you never know with these Thoroughbreds.

Cut to Monday evening.

My car starts.

Lim's shoe is so badly skewed that the nails on the medial side are prodding her sole. I have never pulled a shoe in my life but I need to do it, and now. Armed with loaned tools, I put Lim's left foreleg beneath my knees. The "farrier position" is surprisingly comfortable once established but I can see anyone with inferior thighs screaming for mercy a few minutes into this pose (mine begin to whimper five minutes in).

Cut to a half hour later (still Monday evening).

Lim’s shoe is off and her foot is clean and nestled within a tidy styrofoam shoe for protection. I know her left fore isn’t made of fine china, but it’s worth a million times more.

I worry about the feed.

Cut to Tuesday morning.

My car doesn’t start. I cab it to work. My farrier is going to be at the barn in the afternoon and I plan to take a cab to the barn. I laugh for several moments at the idea of this. My brain is close to breaking! At work, I tell the secretary about my lack of car and much to my surprise, she offers to give me a ride to the barn in the afternoon. Really? That would be awesome! Thank you!

Cut to Tuesday afternoon.

Lim has a shiny new set of aluminums. The “barn manager” shows me a place I can put my feed, a new place that will stay dry in the wettest weather. I walk home and love it; it is a gorgeous day. Not a single cloud in the sky!

When my husband arrives home at 4, we try starting the car. It works! We had decided beforehand that if it starts, we will drive it for a long while to ensure the engine dries out. We drive to the feed store and pick up four bags of fresh feed for Limerick.

Cut to this morning.

My car works, Lim’s feet are trimmed and shod, and she has 200-some pounds of dry feed. The sun is out again and will be for the week, and the apartment management is finally fixing those damn gutters. And last, my brain is back to being (semi) content.

Sometimes the simplest things are all that matter.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Buzz, buzz

No, I didn’t have any more run-ins with wasps!

Last night I clipped the bridle path of Lim’s boyfriend. His owner is letting another woman ride him and last week the woman asked me if I could help her clip his long, bristly bridle path. Given Nick’s attitude and looks, I thought it gave him a cocky post-mohawk Travis Bickle look but agreed.

Since I had no idea how Nick would react to my ancient clippers (leftover relics from our days at hunter/jumper Windemere Farm), I decided slooooow and easy was the way to go. When Nick doesn’t like something, he can overreact badly.

After giving Nick a few moments to become accustomed to the sound and feel of the clippers, I told the woman to feed him carrots as I brought the clippers near his ears. No response. I told the woman to keep feeding him carrots and went ahead and clipped his bridle path. He is tall—16.2 or 16.3—and unlike Lim, did not bring his head down so I could see what the heck I was clipping.

But in the end it looked good. Hooray!

I left the clippers out and decided to do Lim’s bridle path, which was so long that it was past the mohawk stage and into the short-mane stage. I had been planning to let her turn into a 100% wild and rangy thing over the winter but hey, there’s always next year.

My husband arrived to say hello. Wonderful timing! Also a leftover from our hunter/jumper days, one of Lim's surprising traits is that she is a dream to clip. My husband used to give himself buzz cuts. I put the two together and handed him the clippers.

I am always trying to sneak little equine-handling lessons into my husband’s visits to the barn. Usually he sees through my ploy and declines but last night—success!

And mom, you will be so happy—I gave Lim a shave as well. No more 4” whiskers! But I’m still not touching that mane!

For a friend: You’re stronger than you think. Everything will be okay in the end, but for the moments when you think such a thing is not possible, never forget that you have friends to fall back on.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A ride in night

What a cold, ugly, rainy day it is today! Our office/den is almost as dank as a basement today. Why, you ask? Perhaps it has something to do with the clogged gutters on the apartment building's roof! Guess where that water went? Into the outer walls of my apartment and others.

My books, once neatly aligned in bookcases, are now stacked all over one side of the den, leaving the wet half exposed and bare of furniture. I hate disruptions in the orderliness of my life but I think I can deal with this for the time being. Yeah, I'm a neat freak--I can't help it!

I think kisses from Limerick, hot oatmeal with brown sugar, and being curled up on the couch with a blanket, football on TV, hubby to one side, and big fluffy Maine Coon on lap is the solution for the day!

I sure wish Limerick could join us on the couch. I don't think she will like it too much, though. And you know what? The couch would be a little cramped. She's a smallish horse but still, her butt is the equivalent of four of my butts, and that's a lot of butt for a couch to handle.

Maybe on my future horse property, I could set aside one large stall as a "barn living room" complete with couch, rug, bookcase, and television. That way the horses can hang out with us! Or I can make do like a certain Barrington stable and have the living room right up next to the stall of Limerick, complete with window for her to poke her head through and watch football with us. Oh, how I envy those people right now!

Anyway, Lim got kicked in the fanny on Thursday so she has a hematoma on her butt--again. It doesn't look too bad but she is obviously lame at the trot so I'm giving her some time off while it heals.

But on Wednesday we had a sweet ride--in the dark! It was an overcast day to start with so by the time I had Lim saddled up and ready to go, it was quite gloomy. But there were three other horses and riders in the outdoor arena so I decided to join them. So we rode among the dust and dusk. Past Limerick's bay head, everything was muted and gray. I haven't been riding much with other people lately so it was different and fun.

After a while, the other three riders dismounted and left. I knew it was getting darker but I didn't think it was that dark yet. Sure, the white rail around the arena and the gray horses in the pasture next to us were ghostly in the deepening gray and blue. And every time someone drove by, the headlights were bright and oh-so-piercing! But otherwise I could see fine and I knew Lim could see even better than me. So we trotted on!

We cantered and she seemed so thrilled and enlivened with spirit; so much more so than our daytime rides. I knew how she felt--I run best in the dark, too. There's something about night that fills you with primal energy and connects you to your roots, when night meant hurrying, fleeing, running home before the sharp-eyed nocturnal predators found you.

So here we were, two diurnal prey animals (OK, one omnivore), cantering faster and faster in the deepening darkness, the sandy arena glowing before us, the trees and shrubs pitch black along the edge, Lim's head and ears flicking to and fro, always attentive, my hands tight on short reins, my back flat, my body in a deep two-point, well aware that Lim could run at any instant but loving every second of it.

We walked and cooled off. Back at the barn, I turned around and looked at the arena. I could hardly see it--it was truly dark. We had ridden in the dark! I had been aware of it, yet somehow doubting it thanks to my night vision and here I was, looking at a pitch-black sky. There was no doubting it now.

Something horrible happened to me yesterday. Some of you know that one of my greatest fears on Earth is of wasps. There's even a technical term for it--spheksophobia. Yup, I have spheksophobia.

Yesterday I set out for a long run. I ran over to the Danada trails and decided to head over to the grass racetrack on the other side of Naperville Road. Once there, I ran around the track (I admit it, I broke into a "gallop" after checking to see no one was around. Wheee, was that fun! Why don't us humans "gallop" more often? It's much easier on the joints than running, after all, and a rather quick way to travel. Food for thought right there!). When I had made one circuit, I decided to check out the metal starting gate at the head of the track. For once I was not on a horse or bicycle and free to move around the gate.

So I opened the gate and walked through the stalls, just checking things out here and there. I walked to the front of the gate and closed one of the gate flaps. As I did, I happened to look at my right hand. Beneath my hand, beneath the gate latch my hand was on, was an enormous paper wasp nest. And not only that, but it's horrible inhabitants were beginning to emerge from the loathsome paper tunnels.

I swear they were looking at me!

I didn't even think. I took off running as fast as I could. I ran and ran and ran, 110% convinced that the wasps were hot on my heels. I remembered how angry wasps were at the end of the summer, how angry they were at dusk. D'oh, early September, dusk! They were out for death! My legs burned. I ran on. I began to look behind my shoulders. I didn't see them. Where were they?! I ran some more. Looked again. Slowed just a bit. My heart galloped wildly within my chest and my thighs screamed in pain.

Then I realized I was running in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go. I would have to run by them again! Nooooooo!

I slowed to a walk. I hoped and hoped that someone would bike or walk by. Crazily, I hoped I could talk such a poor sap into accompanying me past the gate, not unlike a pony guiding a frightened, wild-eyed racehorse. The sun had almost completely gone over the horizon. My vision was a sea of orange and gold. Tall stalks of goldenrod and ragweed and prairie grasses--taller than me--lined the sides of the limestone trail I was on. I was doomed!

Long story short, I finally worked up the courage to run by the starting gate again. Yes, I ran as fast as I could, for as long as I could. I have to admit it was an excellent workout.

My speksophobia convinced me that there were wasps in my clothes for hours afterwards, and my right hand--the hand that had been over the nest--tingled like something awful.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day yay

My car is a manual '97 Volkswagen Jetta GLS named Sonja. Really, Sonja II. It is my second car ever (the first was a '95 Jetta GL also named Sonja). I tell people I don't have a new car because Limerick swallows all my extra money. True, but not the entire reason I drive an old car. I am also sentimentally attached to Sonja in a bad way, but that's not something you share with strangers.

Oops, I guess I just did!

Well, Sonja died today. At least it happened at the barn, and not in the parking lot of Jewel or in the morning before work.

My husband and a friend's husband looked at the car and tinkered with it for a while. My friend told me about a '72 Volkswagen Beetle her family had when she was younger; it would only start if they rolled it down a hill first.

Her husband said yeah, but that car was old. This (referring to Sonja) is a newer one.

After an hour or so, with no other options left, we decided to try a rolling start. The guys pushed the car using high-tech gear to protect their hands from the hot metal of my car's trunk--a saddle pad for my husband and leather gardening gloves for my friend's husband. It worked!

Once a Volkswagen, always a Volkswagen, I guess?

We had to abandon the car at a Merlin's. We left the key and a note explaining the presence of the Volkswagen on their doorstep. No one is open today except Jiffy Lube and obviously, this goes beyond their expertise. I guess I'll take a cab to work tomorrow.

Automotive troubles aside, the McClellan saddle made a visit to the barn today. Alas, it does not fit--it clears Limerick's huge withers nicely but smushes her massive shoulders. You try fitting a mare who

-is butt-high and therefore built downhill
-has Himalayan withers
-has shoulders that would make the Incredible Hulk weep
-is so narrow that being mistaken for a broomstick is a possibility
-is uber-sensitive to any saddle imperfections

What will I spend that birthday money on then? I don't know! Maybe a cab to work tomorrow.